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Of Gods and geeks: Grunge, understanding the popularity of punk in the 90’s from the perspectives of… Sharples, Christopher 1994

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OF iODS EIMD GEEKSGRUNGE: UNDERSTANDING THE POPULARITY OF PUNK IN THE 90’sFROM THE PERSPECTIVES OF POSTMODERNISM AND AUTHENTICITYbyCHRISTOPHER SHARPLESB.A., The University of British Columbia, 1991A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of Sociology)We accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAOctober 1994© Christopher Sharples, 1994In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, 1 agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.Department of_______________The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate 1./qDE.6 (2/88)iiABSTRACTThis thesis examines the varied textual expressions, discourses, and social practices of the‘Grunge’ culture in relation to its potential for the formation or possession of uniquely defined yetsocially significant moral values. Specifically, the aim of this paper was to explain how theseemingly new moral values of an increasingly popular contemporary North American youthculture, rooted in the values and styles of the Punk subculture, are reflected and understood in itsartistic/aesthetic texts and how social agency and/or significance is or can be attained throughparticipation in this culture.Currently, it is widely believed among members of older generations in society (bothacademic and non-academic) that contemporary youth lack any moral values whatsoever and thattheir personal beliefs, actions, and cultures are socially and politically insignificant and bearingon the delinquent and anti-social. Three elements of contemporary culture which currentlyimpede understanding from a completely modem perspective are:1: individualistic and self-fulfilling behaviour are being misread as being egocentric,self-indulgent and hedonistic,2: the commodifying and mass producing of cultural texts which is believed to denythe possibility of critical activity in opposition to dominant social and ideologicalinstitutions,3: unstable identities that appear to have no commitment to moral values or concerns.Consequently, after introducing the idea that the ethical can be located in the aesthetic andcultural I incorporated the perspectives of postmodernity (as a socially positive disbelief inmetanarratives) and authenticity (as a moral ideal) into the philosophical and theoreticaliiifoundations of this study in order to reveal new and more appropriate forms and ways ofinterpreting and understanding contemporary cultural expressions.My approach to the actual subject matter incorporated a reflexive hermeneuticalsociological methodology, in conjunction with a philosophy influenced by a postmodernconsciousness, that promotes the practice of interpretation for understanding and explaining howculturally constructed texts and discourses can provide for and consist of new moral values andsocially significant activity. This avoided modern quantitative and supposedly objectivemethods and relied on the use of principles founded on rhetoric and argumentation to assess anddefend my readings of and judgements on the text. A method for providing valid results fromhermeneutical participant observation is also outlined but it was not used in the research portionof the study.My understanding is that the Grunge culture, and quite probably other contemporaryyouth cultures, can be understood as postmodern and authentic and, therefore, can be consideredsocially significant. It’s texts express a mood of postmodernism in the discourses of a disbeliefin metanarratives and a concern with ‘otherness’ by effacing the metanarratives associated withmainstream or dominant culture through parody and pastiche, the presentation of theunpresentable, and an assault on nostalgia. The culture, as it becomes popular and mainstream,also becomes the target of its own effacement in keeping with the incredulity with universalisms.The moral ideal of authenticity, from which the culture also gets its social significance, is foundin the implicit expressions of self-determination and a belief in freedom, equality, fairness, anddignity amongst human beings.ivTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract iiTable of Contents ivquote viiCHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTIONPUNK: FROM (SUB)CULTURAL TO (POP)ULAR 11.1 THE MALAISE OF CONTEMPORARY YOUTH CULTURE 11.2 THE ROOTS OF PUNK 41.3 WHAT IS PUNK? 91.3(a) The Expression of Punk 101 .3(a)i The Sound and Fury: Punk Lyrics, Sound, and Presentation 111.3(b) Cultural Creation 191.4 PUNK EMERGES WITH A VENGEANCE 24OVERVIEW 26CHAPTER 2YOUTH CULTURES AND THEORIES ON YOUTH 292.1 HISTORY OF YOUTH SUBCULTURES 302.1(a) Rock ‘n’ Roll 312.1(b) Decades ofRock Culture and New Values 352.1(b)i The 1960’s: The Hippie Movement 352.1(b)ii The 1970’s: Art Rock, Disco, and Heavy Metal 392.1(b)iii The 1980’s? 442.2 SOME THEORIES IN THE STUDY OF YOUTH CULTURE 452.2(a) Youth Subculture as Deviant or Delinquent 462.2(b) Subcultures of Dominant and Subordinate Cultural Relation 48CONCLUSION 50CHAPTER 3ART, POSTMODERNISM, AUTHENTICITY, AND SIGNIFICANCE:LOCATING AND UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING ANDVALUE OF CONTEMPORARY YOUTH CULTURES 52INTRODUCTION 523.1 ART iN SOCIETY AND CULTURE 543.1(a) Understanding Art 553.1(b) Social Role ofArt 573.2 AUTHENTICITY: THE CONTEMPORARY MORAL IDEAL 583.2(a) Authenticity, Art, & Contemporary Youth Culture 603.3 POSTMODERNITY: UNDERSTANDING CONTEMPORARYCULTURES 62V3.3(a) Modernity and Postmodemity 633.3(b) Postmodernity, Art, and Culture 653.4 SIGNIFICANCE: SOCIAL AGENCY FROMCULTURAL PARTICIPATION 673.4(a) Commodification and Significance 683.4(b) Instability of Identity and Significance 693.4(c) Significance in the Aesthetic 713.4(d) The Social Significance of the Moral Ideal ofAuthenticity 723.4(e) Finding The Significance of Contemporary Cultures 73CONCLUSION 75CHAPTER 4NOT MERE TECHNIQUE: POSTMODERN SOCIOLOGICALMETHODOLOGY 77INTRODUCTION 774.1 TRUTH IN METHOD? 794.1(a) The Texts 804.1(b) A Philosophy in Understanding 814.1(c) The Data for Discourse Analysis: Interpretation of Texts 854.1(d) A ‘Method’ for Understanding Discourse 86IMPORTANT NOTE 944.1(e) The Data for Participant Observation 964.1(f) A ‘Method’ for Participant Observation 97A CONCLUSIONARY ASIDE 103CHAPTER 5ALIVE AND DIRTY: WHAT I FOUND TN THE GRUNGE 1055.1 INTERPRETIVE ANALYSIS OF THE GRUNGE CULTURE 1075.1(a) Punk Rock Saved My Life: Interpretation in the First Person 1085.1(b) Grunge: Postmoclern and Authentic? 1175.1 (b)i Interpreting the Grunge Culture/Experienceas a Postmodern Text 119A Disbelief in Metanarratives 120Concern With Otherness 125Expressions of Postmodemism 132a) Expressions of Parody and Pastiche 132b) Expressions of Presentationsof the Unpresentable 139c) The Assault on Nostalgia 148Grunge as Postmodern 1545.1 (b)ii Interpreting the Grunge Culture/Experienceas an Authentic Text 155Authenticity and the Disbelief in Metanarratives 158Authenticity and the Concern for Othemess 159Expressions ofAuthenticity in the Postmodern Culture 162Grunge as Authentic 169CHAPTER 6WHAT HAVE I DONE?: DAZED AND CONFUSED, TOO 171BIBLIOGRAPHY 176APPENDIX A 183vivii“He was a feminist, he was an anti-racist, he hated homophobia,he hated misogyny in all forms, but he had to have his guns,” sobbed[Courtney] Love, lead singer of Hole.1CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTIONPUNK: FROM SU.B(CULTURAL) TO POP(ULAR)“I grew up thinking that everything had already happened... and then one night I wentto see the Sex Pistols and from then on I knew that I’d been completely wrong... agreat chasm of possibility immediately yawned open, a canyon of hope that simplyhadn’t been there before. And I leapt into its breach”- Gina Arnold (1993: 3)1.1 THE MALAISE OF CONTEMPORARY YOUTH CULTUREThe cultures to which an individual finds ascribed to them by birth and embraced bypersonal choice have the most significance among social structures in forming, reflecting, andreforming one’s moral values and ideals. Since the Second World War, various youth cultureshave held considerable importance and effect for the young individuals involved in them andthe society’s that often reluctantly gave them space. Most, if not all, of these cultures whichattained a degree of social significance were driven by and centered around the mysteriousforce of music. This locus provides an important indicator for defining and differentiating theseemingly endless array of youth created and dominated social cultures. These music-centered cultures, many fuelled by the ferocity of youth discovery and rebellion, also havebeen possessed of relatively short shelf-lives; the waxing and waning of the popularity of amultiplicity of youth cultures has provided ample fodder for the bins of used record/cd stores.This perpetual momentariness could be simply understood as a reflection of the continualprocess of many generations of youth realizing the folly of their ways, finally accepting adultand social responsibility, and ending their period of infantile obstinance. However, there isactually something of more significance occurring here. Each of these changes in youthcultural styles can be seen as indicating changes or differences in social conditions, values2and ideals which leave their permanent marks on their participants.The longevity and recurrence of the effect of these marks is apparent in their continualcultural existence and reverence. The most common examples of this cultural ‘marking’ canbe seen in the persistent popularity of such texts as 50’s rock n’ roll music (such as those ofthe Beatles and the Rolling Stones and other associated icons of the decade such as JamesDean and Marilyn Monroe), the recurring tie-dye fashion, psychedelic music, and peacefulaura of the 60’s hippy culture, and the currently popular fashion and music found in the danceclubs and city streets celebrating the disco culture of the 70’s. Each of these cultural stylesand images had important meaning in the formative years for large portions of differentgenerations of North American youth and continue to hold memories as well as provide anethos, consciously and subconsciously, for them as well as new generations which re-discover,re-fabricate, and assimilate them into their own current experience.While I would not want to suggest that the contemporary youth wholly assuming theseretrospective cultures were being forcibly misled to ‘buying into’ a previous generations’ saladdays, or that they are disingenuous or nongenuine for not creating a new culture reflective oftheir own unique experience and place in time, I would suggest that these simulations are notas significant to the formation of cultures expressive of contemporary conditions andsituations. The power of the effect of the baby-boomer generation’s infatuation with its youthcultures is obvious in its dominant and seemingly hegemonic presence across variouscommercial markets, such as music, film, television, publication, and fashion, and its successin influencing some of today’s youth cultural styles. As a result, there is a definite lack ofoptions and venues for contemporary youth to access and choose from for the purpose of3creating their own cultural style. Further, the absorption of the boomer cohort, with all its‘radical’ ideals, into safe, adult, middle-class mainstream society has left the cultural artefactsthat represented their culture, now devoid of support for the meanings for which they stood,as mere window dressing. This cultural domination, then, tends to relieve the newassimilatory and retrospective youth cultures of any responsibility or need for providing anynew socially significant philosophical consciousness, morals, values, or ideas. Consequently,this assumption of cultural images without ideals and values makes me wonder what willhappen to a large number of the youth from the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s who, uponreaching adulthood and social responsibility, will have nothing culturally of their own to helpreflect on and locate themselves in relation to significant social questions and problems.This is not to say that there are no other contemporary youth cultures which did notoriginate from previous generations’ popular rock cultures. In the early 80’s there was theNew Wave culture which appeared obsessed with producing an alternately poppy and moodymusic based on the electronically synthesized, reproduced, simulated, and isolated soundsgenerated by such modern machinery as keyboards and computers. Images of futuristicapocalypse and thunderous terror tend to pervade all of the Heavy Metal culture’s texts and ispopular with headbanging youth who do not seem to mind a continual aural bombardment ofdouble-kick drums, screaming guitars, and tormented vocals (Weinstein 1991). More recentlythe beats-per-minute and dub oriented techno-pop music of the Rave culture (Redhead 1990),a style infatuated with a recreational lifestyle or experience based on an endless throbbingbeat, groovy dance parties, secret warehouses, illicit and illegal modern experimental drugs,has become popular amongst a portion of urban youth. One popular culture which definitely4is not retrospective of a previous generation’s youth culture is rap and hip-hop. Originating inthe ghettoes of America, black youth incorporated the basic back-beat street percussionsounds generated by the body and mouth over which a vocal ‘rap’ was done the lyrics ofwhich incorporated the lived experiences of the black urban youth. As shown by record salesand fashion styles, this culture which is partially expressive of the anger and frustrationresulting from one social group’s experience with many forms of discrimination is one, if notthe most, popular culture among North American youth today. Chapter two gives a moreelaborate detailing on the history and characteristics of some popular youth cultures.While the above mentioned cultures received varying degrees of mainstream popularityone youth culture which by the end of the 80’s seemed doomed to permanent obscurity andminimum social significance was punk rock. The culture of punk rock, probably because ofits extreme alternative and underground nature powered by and uncompromising rebellious,confrontational, and aggressive force, was in danger of being completely disregarded in theannals that record the consequence of popular youth cultures. It seemed that mainstreamsociety could enter the 90’s without giving punk its due respect in the cultural and socialspectrum. Punk was in jeopardy of being a memory and reflective foundation for givingmeaning and understanding to ideas, values, and beliefs for only a small portion of thepopulation, thereby, having a minimum effect on the psyche of society as a whole.1.2 TBJ ROOTS OF PUNKPunk rock began circa 1976 in London, England, due to (1) a response by British“disaffected’ youth, from inner-city working-class backgrounds [who] had declared war oncontemporary society, its institutions and its dominant cultural values” (Lamy & Levin 1985:5157) and (2) as a creative and commodifiable product by and for Malcolm McClaren, anentrepreneurial art student who performed the role of manager for the band which he devised,the Sex Pistols. These prototype punks were identified by their torn clothing that wasrandomly repaired with safety pins, spiked and coloured hair, and leather clothing with chains,razor blades, zippers, paper clips, and iron crosses as accoutrements. Their attitude towardtraditions and society could be summed up by the Sex Pistols’ song titles “Anarchy in theU.K.” and “No Future”. The relationship between punk musicians and their audience wasdifferent than the traditional rock idol-fan relationship. There was not supposed to be anyseparation or inequality between the two, no idolization: the bands often spat and urinated onthe audience who would reciprocate the gesture. The music was simple, yet loud andaggressive. Fashion was ragged and utilitarian. Language was honest, offensive anddissenting. Rituals, on the surface, appeared violent, and the graphic design, or art, reflectedall these characteristics.Punk appeared in North America around the same time with the emergence of theRamones and New York Dolls in New York and later in Los Angeles and San Francisco in1977 with such bands as the Nuns, Crime, and the Avengers. In the U.S., inspired by theuniqueness of the open rebellion and fear against and being fed up with all things traditional,punk could be seen as a response to the decadence and glamour of the hippy and disco erasand the oncoming 80’s Reaganite era of self-centered individualism. While initially imitatingthe styles of British punk, American punk eventually abandoned the European influenced flairof fashion and colour for a decidedly ominous and menacing black theme (Levine & Stumpf1983: 423). American punks “came from primarily middle-class backgrounds and the average6age in the punk community was in the mid 20s” (Lamy & Levin 1985: 158) and,consequently, the “British punks [who were primarily teenagers and from the working class]never did reach the intellectual levels that the Americans did” (ibid: 158). The Americanyouth were either individuals who had found themselves alienated from mainstream society asmany are and/or they rejected the value-systems associated with their ascribed socialpositions.“Punk meant a lot of things to me - it meant freedom and violence and announcingyour discontent with society as it was; it meant being able to recognize your utteralienation while simultaneously entering a whole new and more satisfying communityof outcasts - a sort of ‘Island of Misfit Toys’ for human beings. But one thing it neverseemed to promise was mainstream success” (Arnold 1993: 3).In both countries, though, cultural expression took the form of reflective personal and socialcommentary offered in a way often offensive and infuriating to mainstream culture with thepurpose of trying to instigate thought about and to illuminate central features of dominantsociety (Levine & Stumpf 1983).In 1980, the London and New York scenes waned and San Francisco and the NorthAmerican West Coast became the continual generator of punk and punk rock. It still remainedan underground subculture yet with an ever increasing geographical range and musicaldiversity. The original urban L.A. apocalyptic punk bands and the Hollywood glam punkbands were incorporated with a abrupt flood of suburban teenage garage bands from thesurrounding areas of the San Fernando Valley, Redondo Beach and Orange County.Independent and college radio gave a wider venue for the music being created and magazines7(or zines as they are known), such as Maximum Rock n Roll, Slash, Search and Destroy, andFliDside, produced by local members of the scenes, documented cultural activity as well asprovided a form of inter-communication for concerned youth. Within the pages of these zinesthe live shows and the new, self-produced and promoted tape, ep, and ip recordings of suchbands as Dead Kennedys, DOA, Youth Brigade, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Minor Threatwere detailed and reviewed. However, even as the culture was burgeoning with newexpressive and stimulating texts and ideas, mainstream youth and society were virtuallyunaware, except for the shopping mall and t.v. versions, of punk.Through the 80’s the punk community grew. The locus of punk activity spread tomore centres around the States such as San Francisco (Dead Kennedys, Youth Brigade), LosAngeles (Circle Jerks, Black Flag), Austin (Butthole Surfers, Big Boys, Mullions of DeadCops), Washington, D.C. (Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bad Brains), Minneapolis (Soul Asylum,Replacements, Husker Du), and Seattle (Soundgarden, Skin Yard, Nirvana). Canada is almostalways disregarded in most surveys, studies, and books on punk but here, too, the culture wasactive. In Vancouver, bands such as DOA, the Subhumans, and the Enigmas were (and somestill are) central forces of the music scene. In Victoria the infamous Dayglow Abortions andthe amazing No Means No fashioned new music styles still popular today. Even in theinterior of British Columbia there were small punk scenes in the towns of Prince George,Kelowna, and, where I grew up, Kamloops (Desperate Minds Stagnation, Inner Anger, MildGuys, and Ghosts of Roadkill). Throughout the rest of the country were such bands as SNFU(Edmonton), the Stretch Marks (Winnipeg), the Asexuals and the Doughboys (Montreal), andProblem Children (Toronto). What this is indicative of is the thoroughness to which the punk8ideals and forms of expression were expanding across North America. Anywhere there wereyoung people who were not satisfied with what mainstream society was providing them within the forms of knowledge, culture, and leisure activities there were the foundations for theformation of a punk scene.By the end of the 80’s a few bands who had come from the various underground punkscenes and were getting signed to major record labels. This made it possible for the recentexplosive emergence of punk bands into the mainstream. Jane’s Addiction, a glam-punk bandfrom LA, started to attract attention and do major concert touring with its Warner Bros. labelalbums Nothing Shocking (1987) and Ritual De Lo Habitual (1989). A heavy and funkyHollywood band called the Red Hot Chili Peppers were integral to the introducing of punkexpression to mainstream society. Their EMI label albums Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987),Mother’s Milk (1989), and Warner Bros. Blood Sugar Sex Magic (1991) along with theassociated videos and Nike commercials brought a version of punk attitude and art into thehomes of North America. Sonic Youth, from New York, further helped the introductoryprocess with their songs and videos for their Geffen label album Dirty (1990) whichincorporated the punk elements of thrash and their unique brand of sound distortion andexperimentation using electric guitars. It was the increasing mainstream familiarity with thesebands that would allow for the success of one of the biggest efforts of punk music in openingthe flood gates for punk expression in popular culture.Perry Farrell, currently lead singer for Porno for Pyros and formerly of the nowdefunct Jane’s Addiction, came up with an idea for a touring festival similar to the onespopular in Europe. He brought together a concert show made up of a group of alternative9bands that were not receiving mainstream airplay (this is a contentious issue because many ofthe bands were/are signed to major record label deals), a fairway of concessions and speakersplatforms promoting various alternative lifestyles and ideas and called it Lollopalooza. Ineach of the three summers since 1991 there has been a Lollopalooza and each time there hasbeen a different contingency of acts that display a range of music styles that have not foundmuch popularity in mainstream society. As Gina Arnold, a recent if not the only chroniclerof the current punk scene, reflected upon the festival: “I knew for a fact somethingmomentous was occurring. It was the first whisper, a ghostly sigh of success, a rumorwhistling across the plain, that the old guard was changing. Forget mainstream radio and thecolor-bound gridlock of the rest of the industry: the ecstatic reception of Ice T’s new band(Body Count) by fifteen thousand unbriefed Arizona teenagers said that there might be roomin the real world after all for challenging music. At least there was a place, now, for thepopulation to hear it” (Arnold 1993: 142).1.3 WHATIS PUNK?Punk is two things. First, and most apparent to mainstream society, it is a way for agroup of young individuals to abruptly separate and isolate itself from dominant society insuch a way that so doing comments on and criticizes the society it rejects. Punk, selfconsciously, uses various elements of artistic expression (music, fashion, argot, ritual, andgraphic design) to, reflectively, place itself outside of popular culture and society whileilluminating central features which it thinks abhorrent. Secondly, and maybe moreimportantly, it is a way that young people have been able to wrestle the control over youth10culture away from older generations. It is from these two components that the importance ofpunk is determined.1.3(a) The Expression of PunkHebdige (1979), of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at theUniversity of Birmingham, was one of the first academics to realize the importance of punk,to study it, and to try to understand how the culture’s stylistic use of elements was importantto its aims. He found that members were able to take objects like safety pins or symbolssuch as swastikas from mainstream society and alter their meaning according to their ownpurposes. Punks are able to incorporate images integral to their style that expressed theirintention to simultaneously repel and challenge mainstream society. Levine and Stumpf(1983), based on the interpretation of punk band names, believe that it is through the‘negative’ images of fear, disgust, rejection from society, anarchy, and death that punk is ableto separate itself from and critically comment on mainstream society with the intentions ofbringing about some ‘positive’ change. While this conclusion is fairly accurate, what it leavesout is the element of extreme anger and disbelief that is also core to the culture’s style. Thejuxtaposition that youth witness between what they are told is ‘right’ and ‘truth’ and what theyactually experience in the real world is a foundation of these feelings. Punk, in a storm ofsound and fury, hyper-projects images of violence and atrocity for the world to see the resultsof hypocrisy in the actions of adults, governments, religions, etc. It is this ‘functional role’ of“exist(ing) outside the main culture, while illuminating central features of it” (ibid: 433) thatmakes punk a ‘reflective’ subculture, as opposed to the ‘outlaw’ subculture of motorcyclegangs which exists outside of the mainstream culture without appearing interested in11remaining a part of it and the ‘alternative’ subculture of the hippy movement which provided alifestyle choice within the mainstream (ibid: 433).This style, fuelled by the anger and intent to challenge, is most prominent in the punkmusical performance. As Lomax (1968) explains, most cultures who find or put themselvesin a position of resistance or rebellion use music as a primary source for their expression.“From the beginning of punk, the music seemed to partake of and contribute to the hostilityand mayhem that became part of the punk image” (Levine & Stumpf 1983: 423). It is aroundmusic that punk is able to express its deepest sentiments and cultivate its community.Through the use of lyrics, sound, and presentation the essence of punk rock is crystallized.“[The songs are] fast... cause that’s the amount of energy we have, and they’re short becausethat’s how long our inspiration lasts”.- Ron Reyes in (Arnold 1993: 38)1.3(a)i The Sound and Fury: Punk Lyrics. Sound, and PresentationLyrics are very important to punk as an expression of thought (in varying levels ofintelligence, reflection, and eloquence) and concern about personal, local, and world problems,conditions, and experiences. Their importance is indicated by the fact that with most punkrecordings, and even at some live shows, there will almost always be a lyric sheet of someform included in the package. There is a dual purpose for this: 1) it allows the listener toread and dwell on the poetic expressions and thoughts of the punk artist and compatriot,thereby, helping to instigate awareness and thought on the part of the listener, and 2), because12punk is fuelled by the afore-mentioned anger and energy, the vocalized lyrics are oftenbrutally loud, heart-feltedly screamed, and can become lost or undecipherable in the din and alyric sheet helps recover them. The words and language themselves come from the everydaylife of musically and artistically untrained youth, and due to the conditions with which theyare being expressed within they can be very ‘colourful’, coarse, obtuse, aggressive, andobnoxious but wholly cathartic. Accompanying the audible words and choruses, often sunganthem style by the audience (ie. “I don’t care ‘bout you, Fuck you” (Fear) or “If we can rocktogether, why can’t we walk together?” (7 Seconds)), there are howls, there are screams, andcacophonous roars; you may not always be able to decipher or pick-out the words but theconnected listener knows the sound of the cry of the misfit, the sound of being chased all theway home from school by bullies, the wail of the abused and neglected, and the moan ofdismay of a witness to pain and suffering. These sounds are the vocalizations made by theheart, though love songs are usually not evident in punk, and brain trying to make sense ofcruelty, travesty, and tragedy. Examples of this style of reflective lyrical creativity,aggressive yet forlorn, can be seen in the out-takes from the following punk songs:“It seems more and more “Maybe it was no one’s faultThe future’s filled with uncertainty I know it wasn’t mineWe seem to find ourselves But now that you’ve moved alongLiving in an age of anxiety I guess I’m next in lineI know, we go, on living fearfully I thought we had the same ideasThe leaders of the world But you, you proved me wrongWon’t realize their responsibility I’ve been played the fool beforeI say, I say will we get blown away” But never for quite so longfrom “Blown Away” by Youth Brigade (1983) BETRAY”from “Betray” by Minor Threat(l983)“I went home, I was feeling so aloneI was late, it was my mistakeI went to my room and sat there in the gloomI know I’ve been bad, I know he’ll be madI hear him coming down the hallAnd there’s nowhere to go, nowhere at allI’ve been bad, it was my mistakeHe opens the door, his eyes full of hateDAD NO! DAD, LEAVE ME ALONE! DAD NO! DAD LET ME GO!DAD NO! DAD, LEAVE NE ALONE! OH, NY GOD, NO! NO!”from “DAD” by No Means No(1986)13Another feature often found in punk lyrics is the way in which a brutal honesty isexpressed in their intent. Fired by an ‘no compromise’ attitude there are no punches arepulled and no holds are barred in the open and upfront expression of meaning. As seen in theabove lyrical excerpts one can see that subtlety and allegorical or metaphorical usage are notcommon to the style. Even by examining the titles of punk songs, which are usually not thatfar removed from the lyrical content of the song, one is able to get a sense of thischaracteristic. As an example, the titles of the Dead Kennedys songs “Too Drunk to Fuck”,“Terminal Preppy”, “California Uber Alles”, “Stars and Stripes of Corruption”, and “Holidayin Cambodia” are indicative of the brutal honesty and cynicism that pervades most of punkmusic. These titles and songs evoke the essence of punk in that they demonstrate anawareness of and concern about various local and international social problems in an overtand darkly humourous manner that expresses the anger and energy of its authors who have nodesire to curtail their expression to the conventions of ‘well-mannered’ mainstream society orits record industry.The sound of punk rock music is an equal and worthy counterpart to the aggressiveand abrasive essence of punk lyrics. For an individual experiencing live punk rock for thefirst time I am sure it would sound like a massive wall of white noise. An undistinguishablebarrage of all possible sound frequencies at once and not unlike the noise of a jet engine.One tune may be indiscernible from the next (like country music, Bryan Adams songs, andradio DJ voices are for a lot of people) and the pace may be intolerable (see previous bracketfor parallel). My own first experience could be described as such but then again I was14listening to the opening of the Dead Kennedy& Plastic Surgery Disasters album which beginswith a barrage of wailing guitar noise. While the content of the lyrics appealed to me firstand hooked me in, I quickly began to enjoy the sound and presence of the music. The songsare fast and aggressive, much like the lyrics, and the sound is right out there front and centre,large and loud. The drums are pounded at an unheard of speed and, with the heavy bassguitar, provide a high speed driving rhythm on top of which the highly amplified anddistorted guitars are attacked. The guitars, core to punk, are made to crush out their soundsas power chords are executed fast and often without a great deal of attentiveness to a masteryor artistry of playing (though this is not to say that punk guitarists are not good guitarplayers). And, pulling all the elements together, the vocals are shouted, snarled, and,otherwise, jammed through a tightly gripped microphone. There is a punch to punk music.The furious, 100 mph thrash, straight forward hard rock does not cascade over you or makeyou want to lightly tap your foot. It blasts your face off, makes it peel, and makes you wantto race around and jump up and down. It gets your attention.The presentation of punk music is the definitive experience of punk and is what allpunk activity revolves around. It is aggressive, interactive, and is the promotion andpreservation of the punk culture. The ‘gig’, ‘show’, or live concert performance of punk bandsis the ritual that is integral to the continuity of punk, as it presents the various facets of theculture’s ideology, inarticulate as it may be, through the ideas, involvement and interactionthat occur through the event.From my own experience and upon reading many ‘zines from the culture, I understand15that the reasons and results behind the ‘putting on’ of a punk show are not similar to thosebehind the presentation of popular mainstream acts. Most mainstream acts, who play in largevenues and are publicized by professional promotion teams and businesses with the assistanceof radio, television, and newspapers, are themselves professionals who perform for the solepurpose of making money and increasing record sales. They treat creation and performanceas a job. Punk shows and tours, on the other hand, are almost always organized either bysmall groups of interested youth living in the various communities or the bands themselveswho do it because they feel inspired to. They are advertised through word of mouth and theinfamous past-time of posting and distributing gig flyers and usually occur at some small,non-alcoholic venue often rented under false pretences. Ticket prices are routinely set to justcover costs, provide enough money to pay for the bands’ gas, and possibly allow them to getpaid a small amount. There are no guarantees, riders (requirements to supply special items ie.food, beverages, etc. for the bands), or contracts. The purpose, from the bands’ point of view,is to travel, meet groups of similarly interested youth, and play the music that they feel isimportant to perform. From the organizers point of view, the goal is to provide an easilyaccessible and entertaining event for all ages within which they can interact amongthemselves and the members of the bands. The ideal result is a forging of a genuineexperience from which a better awareness, understanding, and knowledge of each other andtheir community/society arises.The bands’ purpose at these events is, then, to provide the cultural text of music andperformance around which a sense of community is formed. This sense of community amongmembers of the band and audience is created and expressed in the understanding of equality16between members. In contrast to mainstream concerts where the band is separated from itsaudience by being placed on high stages, dressing in fashion costume, never venturing intothe audience, and being protected by bouncers who would not think twice of beating senselessan excited audience member intent on touching their idol, punks break down these barriers ofinequality and separation. Makeshift stages at punk gigs are usually low and put theperformers faces just above the head level of the crowd. The performers’ appearanceresembles their audiences, as there is no change of clothing or preparation of hair for the solepurpose of going on-stage (unless there is a point to be made). While on stage punk bandmembers often interact with their audience (the activity of reciprocal spitting and urinationhas generally been eliminated from this interaction), wether it be through physical contact orpersonal conversation, encouraging symbiotic response to their presence and performance.Audience members who find themselves onstage dancing, stage-diving, or assisting in singingare not hurriedly escorted off, they are welcomed.“Boys all body-swam in slow motion on top of the warm loving shoulders of thecrowd; when Kurt and Chris (the bass player and guitar player for Nirvana) wouldcontinually thrust themselves into it, flesh on flesh: when no one mean or cruel orstupid was allowed into that magic circle. Back when there was a sense ofcommunity” (Arnold 1993: 163).This personal interaction dissolves traditional band/audience barriers and promotes thephilosophy that there is no difference between individuals, that no one should be in awe orafraid of the other. All that is really happening is some members of the community havegone on a stage to present some songs to the rest. At large mainstream rock concerts there is17the definite presence of two distinct ‘worlds’, the performers and the fans (who often leaveconcerts depressed because they realize that they were in close proximity to their idol(s) yetcouldn’t intimately interact or communicate with them), while at a small punk gig there isonly one, the members.In collaboration with the band audience participation obviously has an important rolein the expression of the essence of punk ideology, Without the reverence imparted tomainstream pop idols, punks assume the stage as part of the space available to the communityand respect the band only as individuals who are aesthetically expressing commonly-heldbeliefs and providers of text for the whole to entertain itself. In front of the stage occurs thephenomenon known as ‘the pit’. It is here that audience members, propelled by the intensityof the music, thrash or ‘mosh’ about in a rapidly churning circle, bumping into each other.There is no proper dance move, only self-expression realized through the beat. Individualsenter and leave the pit when they feel that they have energy to spend or have spent it, thosewho fall down are picked up, and those who mis-interpret the activity as violent are eithereducated or avoided. It is from this turmoil that members may dart out onto the stage, sing aline or two of a song with the band, and return by jumping, or ‘stage-diving’, off of it. Bandmembers, as noted above, pay respect to and indistinguish themselves from their audience byalso flinging themselves into or on top of this mass of bodies, allowing for the current toconsume and move them along.Arnold captures the essence of the difference between the reverence of mainstreamrock stars and the personal affinity between punk musician and punk audience member bydescribing the absorbed attention of audience members at a Seattle gig.18“Watching guys watch the Fluid’s vocalist, John Robinson, or the (Afghan) Whigs’Greg Dulli, slack-j awed and tense, willing the singers to sweat on their veiy brows, isan enlightening experience: there’s such an obvious difference between that and thesight of, say, your usual guitar god or hammy singer, or even a more traditionalalternative guy singing love songs about girls or beer. The Sub Pop (a Seattle recordlabel) dude-fans don’t want to be Robinson or Dulli: they want to be with him”(Arnold 1993: 158).She goes on to interpret this connection as a form of homoeroticism which I feel is amistaken reading. The desire to be onstage with the performers can be seen as coming fromthe sense of equality and community between performer and audience. Because the feelingsand ideas of punk music are so intensely shared and the stage performance is experienced asan eruptive and revelatory expression of an understanding of these, the desire to be an integralpart of the creative performance is invigorating. The ‘slack-jawed and tense’ appearance canbe seen as a result of the members conflicting desires to both enjoy the music from theposition of audience member and jump up onstage, interrupt the band, and complete thereciprocal act of communication by saying “Yes, I feel it too”! I have felt this way at manyshows where I wanted to get up onstage, sing with the band, and tell them that I knew exactlywhat they meant, I wish I could have said it, and can we please talk about it with each otherafter the show? The audience wants to join, as a friend, in the performance. The feelings ofmillions of fans towards Kurt Cobain, I believe, is also a result of this desire. The life he led,the artwork he created, the sounds he made, and the words he wrote spoke to and for so manykids that his removal from the community left a gaping hole because it meant the19disappearance of so much enjoyment and of someone that understood.Together, the lyrics contained in punk songs, the elements of the sound behind thelyrics, and the punk performance formulate an implicit philosophy of the punk culture. Lyricsexpress an awareness, concern and anger over a multitude of social problems and abuses.The music is an aural bombardment against various barriers to artistic creativity and physicaland reflective expression. The production and performance of a punk gig create a non-exclusive and self-supportive community and culture through involvement, interaction, andcreativity. Through the expression of equality and non-differentiation, involvement and thedestruction in the belief of the superiority and idolization of creative artists, and the reciprocalappreciation between performer and audience the culture speaks of such values as freedomand fairness, equality and individuality, and self-consciousness and self-determination.1.3(b) Cultural Creation“But punk rock was never just about buying leather jackets and singing about RonaldReagan, it was anti-record industry”.(Arnold 1993: 38)Considering the messages and images that constitute punk rock and being that it is asubculture intent on promoting a sense of its own community, it should not be expected thatartefacts and texts of this culture would simply be symbols and objects produced and co-optedfrom or commonly found in mainstream society. Punk is very active in producing andpromoting its own culture with an attitude that has no regard for mainstream methods orcontrol, because it is intent on questioning these self-same methods and controls in its textualdiscourse. The expression of this attitude is no better illustrated than in the process by whichpunk artists/musicians form, promote, and distribute their creative product. It is in this20attitude and process by which punk asserts and preserves itself that the punkideology/philosophy can also be located.As with most industries in North America, there is a high degree of corporateconcentration within the recording industry. A few companies have control over a largeamount of the available funds and facilities, thereby, dictating what is produced and madeavailable to the general public. The major record labels’ only intent is to sell as many unitspossible for each dollar invested in an artist. In order to achieve this songs and acts mustappeal to a wide audience. Regardless of the quality of the music produced this situationresults in many acts, voices, styles, and ideas, ones which might be considered offensive orchallenging, unheard. In response, punks and other youth cultures known as alternative (as inalternative to the styles promoted by major labels) found it necessary to support their ownbands, tour extensively, and record, produce, advertise, and distribute their own material. AsBruce Pavitt, co-founder and co-owner of Sub Pop records, said, “I could always see that thereal essence of the punk work was Dead Kennedys’ putting stuff out themselves and thehomegrown nature of (the magazine) Search and Destroy and people taking control of theirown culture” (in Arnold 1993: 155). Kids started their own record labels, made their ownartwork, took their own photographs, and put on their own shows. Youth were being activein the creation of their own culture rather than being force-fed or choosing by default themusic that a ‘30-something’ corporate weasel formulated in order to make some enormousamounts of money.The result was an underground harvest of bands, record labels, and fanzines thatinformed and communicated between all the little towns and big cities that collectively21formed the punk community. The bands taped themselves, or had their friends do it, ingarages or other strange places which often resulted in poor recordings that did not quiteattain radio air-play quality. But these songs were not intended for radio anyways. Thescratchy and muddy recordings, distributed and traded nation-wide by cassette tape, capturedthe energy, edge, and essence of the punk live performance and philosophy. Eventually,many young individuals, such as Ian Mackaye (the singer for such bands as Teen Idles, MinorThreat, and Fugazi), saw that they, too, could form a band and make a record. “We hadrecorded a tape and we knew no one would put it out, so we just went, ‘Fuck it, we’ll do itourselves”, said Mackaye when identifying the impetus for the alternative and independentrecord industry (Arnold 1993: 48). This Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y) and Anyone-Can attitude isvery important because it promotes, propels, and prolongs the punk scene as well as providesa feeling of community among individuals who have similar ideas about how they want tolive and create their lives free from the confines of corporate cultural domination. This isevidenced in the pages of such culturally integral ‘zines as Maximum Rock n Roll (M.R.R.)and Flipside, two of the many member created publications which specialize in makingavailable easily accessible or affordable letter, editorial, review, interview, and advertisingspace for punk. Epitomizing the worth and intent of these ‘zines is the advertisement for theDo-It-Yourself Resource Magazine that appeared on page 2 in the November 1993 issue ofM.R.R. Titled Book Your Own Fuckin’ Life #2, this publication provides ‘a country bycountry/state by state listing of punk/hardcore/indie bands, ‘zines, promoters, labels, radio,video, food, food, lodging, etc.’. The existence of such resources and the longevity of such‘zines as M.R.R. provide evidence to the continued vitality and diversity of the punk culture22and of the individuals who promote a discourse of unselfish cultural creativity without theintent of obscene personal financial gain. My own experience as a youth in Kamloops is anexample of this. One person started his own band, his own local-scene ‘zine, promoted localshows with touring and local bands, self-recorded his band and those of his friends, startedhis own record label for his own and friends bands, and toured across the continent in a beat-up old van all for the sake of punk. His activity and D.I.Y attitude gave me the opportunityand stimulation to become excited by and involved in punk. I started to draw pictures andwrite articles for his ‘zine, formed a band and played at his shows, helped organize shows,went on tour as a roadie, recorded a tape with my band in an abandoned medical clinic,became a radio D.J. at university, and wrote a Master’s thesis on punk.Integrity, in conjunction with the D.I.Y. attitude, is also fundamental to the operationand appeal of the punk scene. A youthful and bright-eyed idealism against adult compromiseand contradiction is part of the primary forces behind the punk cultural production andintegrity is its single-most important convention and realization. Defined by the principles ofdecency and honesty this characteristic is found in no better form than that of the bandFugazi. With Ian Mackaye, former member of Minor Threat, the members of Fugazi insist oncomplete control over their creations, all-ages access to their shows (their shows do not occurin bars), cheap ticket prices (usually $6 and under), and cheap cd/record/tape prices from theMackaye-owned Dischord record label (Arnold 1993: 51-52). “Probably the most positiveaspect of punk rock - and one that was most ignored by the mainstream press - has alwaysbeen its economy. Self-made records, homespun bands, cheap shows, good art: mentalliberation for three dollars a pop” (ibid: 39). This is one of the reasons that I, and others like23me, am attracted to punk and that after nine years am still interested in punk and make it thecentre of my academic work. The affordability, creativity, honesty, and thought provocationprovided by punk culture is engaging in a time of mass-produced culture. It is these sameprinciples that Kurt Cobain and Nirvana brought with them to the mainstream and resulted inthem being described as difficult and rebellious.This is why punk is important. For the past seventeen years, the philosophies,attitudes, and values of this underground, alternative, and reflective subculture has providedan avenue for creative criticism of mainstream society and culture and a means forcontemporary youth to produce their own genuine cultural texts and write their owndiscourses. Coming from within themselves in new ways, it can be seen as an expression ofanother version of the ‘good life’. This expression has not only incorporated the discourse ofthe white male guitar player, which mainstream rock music has tended to be the domain, butin punk there has been a large number of bands with females and blacks, for instance, someof which have gone on to be popular like the Go-Go’s, Blondie, the Bangles, Fishbone, BadBrains, and rap cross-overs Body Count and Hard Corp. This new element of popularity isimportant because during the last seventeen years very few punk bands and their ideas havebecome known to the mainstream audience and if they did it was either because of notorietyor as a pale shadow of their former punk selves. Is punk to forever remain an undergroundsubculture, reflecting on a society out of range? Until 1991, with the breaking of a ‘new’culture, it appeared so.241.4 PUNK EMERGES WITH A VENGEANCELevine and Stumpf, talking about punk rock, asked in 1983 “What might its (punkrock) impact be on the wider mainstream culture”(Levine & Stumpf 1983: 432)? In the early90’s, during the era of the extremely unsure and unconfident ‘twenty-nothing’ age cohort(which also tends to incorporate teenagers), most recently dubbed the Generation X (Coupland1991) and characterized as the Slacker generation (Linklater 1991), it has become possible toanswer this question. Another music-centered youth culture has arisen and, because of itspopularity, seems to reflect and express many of the social conditions and understandings of agrowing amount of contemporary youth; a culture whose philosophical, ideological, andartistic understandings are fuelled by the reflective subcultural roots of North American punkrock which are now being commodified and marketed to and consumed by the widermainstream culture.The documentary film 1991: The Year Punk Broke, featuring such bands as SonicYouth and Nirvana, identifies the time when this (r)evolutionary moment occurred. Annals ofthe mainstream trend-spotting-happy media, among them the hippie-now-yuppy magazineRolling Stone (Azerrad 1 992a, 1 992b), Canada’s national conservative newspaper The Globe& Mail (Star 1993), and the former New York-fashion now pulse-of-alternative-youth Detailsmagazine (Edward 1992a, 1993b) for example, conceitedly believe they have, in a moment ofrevelation, located the culture’s origin in the Seattle area fuelled by the artistic expressions ofsuch bands as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, Screaming25Trees, and Tad. This cultural phenomenon, popularly known as Grunge’ (a label regrettablygiven to the style by Mudhoney’s vocalist/guitarist Mark Arm), has expanded from the WestCoast of the U.S.A. and Canada to the rest of North America and across the Atlantic. In itswake has sprung many musical imitations, media bandwagon jumpers, mall and high fashionprofiteering, and slavering record industry weasels which has tended to denigrate the cultureand created a backlash.An understanding of a culture such as Grunge requires more than a description of itselements, because there are the values and ideals involved with participation in the culturewhich give a deeper knowledge to the meaning of its expression (hence the following study).However, as a preliminary introduction, I can describe the elements of Grunge found in itstextual narratives as containing a mix of an analytical and critical energy, sarcasm, cynicism,humour, play, crushed idealism, confusion, hopelessness, anxiety, aggression, hysteria, anger,and rage directed not only towards society-at-large but, uniquely, also to itself and its ownconditions and predicaments.Taking its cue from the principles of punk, Grunge rejects many of the standards ofknowledge and processes associated with normal and safe middle-class life and questionsmany of the inconsistencies found therein. Abandoning the more apocalyptic imagery ofpunk fashion, standards of dress derive from actual conditions of youth poverty (eg. t-shirts,plaid flannel shirts, simple cotton dresses, leather jackets, loose denim pants, sturdy footwear)and still tend to be functional with a stress on comfort, durability and lack of commercial‘‘Grunge’ has become a despised term among members of theculture and I only use it here for the sake of brevity and as away for non—initiates to orient themselves to the culture.26accoutrement and style while hairstyles consist of variations from no-nonsense buzz-cuts tolong, unkempt, wavy lengths. The music, while still based on punk aggression and recordedwith a ‘daisy-cups and a string’ b-fidelity sound, is oriented towards amplified and distortedor dischordant electric guitar, tending to stay away from electronically reproduced or sampledsounds and keyboards, is now fused with more diverse variations of stampeding and groovingrhythms borrowed mostly from 70’s rock, funk, blues, heavy metal, and power pop, and isoften fused to noise distortion and experimentation. Lyric content accompanying songs havea diversity of topics and styles ranging from the very personal and individual concerns ofchild abuse, suicide, drug addiction, lust and self-worth to wider issues such as cruelty toanimals, corrupt and self-righteous televangelism, environmental destruction, and misogyny.However, while punk was very forthright and straight to the point in its angry and anthemicvoicing of concerns and criticism on similar topics in its lyrics, Grunge artists have oftentaken to obscuring, or at least not making obvious, the exact meaning of their message andleaving them open to immense opportunity for interpretation.OVERVIEWIn the following chapters it is my aim to try to make understandable the increasingappeal and popularity of a contemporary youth culture that is based on the attitudes and ethicsof a formerly alternative and underground sub/counterculture (punk) to a wider, mainstreamoriented youth population and/or generation.Chapter 2 is a brief outline and summary of a number of popular youth cultures, mostbeing centered around rock music, that preceded Punk and Grunge and a variety of academicconcepts and theories which have been used to try to understand youth cultures in the past.27The purpose of this is to form a background against which the punk and grunge cultures andthe contemporary theories and methods which I introduce can be compared. The summaryindicated that most youth cultures have always seemed to have elements of escape, resistanceand rebellion, creativity and social consciousness but many have ended in hedonism, selfindulgence, commercialisation and alienation. And of the few theories concerning youthculture most either view or find them as deviant or delinquent or as a simple response todominant/subordinate cultural relations. Consequently, the unique attitudes and perspectivesof the punk and grunge cultures required that I develop my own theoretical andmethodological frameworks for understanding the contemporary cultures.The purpose of Chapter 3, then, is to create the theoretical framework around whichappropriate understanding of contemporary youth cultures should occur. This is done byproposing that there are four basic elements (method, philosophy, context, and purpose) ofthese cultures which need to be realized in order to allow understanding to follow. The firstis to recognize art as the primary vehicle through which cultural meaning and values areexpressed; the second, authenticity, is the philosophy or moral ideal which informs the textualdiscourse (art) expressed; the third element, postmodernity, is the context which describes theinfluential mood or attitude within which and how expression occurs; and forth, socialsignificance, is the purpose or implicit goal for which cultural expression occurs. I found thatart, because of its inherent qualities, is a superior and inevitable method of expressingmeaning and values for members of a culture who are influenced by a postmodem mood anda moral ideal of authenticity, therefore, if one is to understand some meaning ofcontemporary youth cultures it is necessary to look at the discourse in the cultural texts.28Social significance comes in the consequential yet undeterminable changes that occur inresponse to the discourse of the implicitly morally informed cultural texts.The intent of Chapter 4 is to explain how a sociological methodology can be carriedout or exist in social research that is influenced by a postmodem mood. The methodologicalprocedures (principles, criteria and ‘rules’) for investigating, ‘analyzing’ and understanding thesubject matter is directed by the philosophy of phenomenological hermeneutics whichrecognizes the unavoidable relationship the subjective observer has with the observed objectand the valid form of understanding that occurs through the natural act of interpretation.Responsible and reliable hermeneutical method, articulated practice raised to the level oftheory, can be attained and recognized as valid by being able to persuasively justif’, argue ordefend one’s interpretations and results without having to rely on traditional objective andpositivistic theory and method.Chapter 5 a) provides a solid and practical example of social research carried outunder the hermeneutical theory and method outlined in the previous two chapters and b)explains or reveals the postmodem and authentic elements present in the Grunge culture. Itprovides three instances of valid interpretations and understandings in relation to the meaningof the cultural expression in opposition to readings that interpret contemporary youth culturesas valueless or socially insignificant. The findings reveal that understanding aspects ofpostmodemism and authenticity help to reveal the presence of values that otherwise remainobscure to those readers unaware of these perspectives. A summary of the findings andconclusions of the research is located in Chapter 6.29CHAPTER 2; YOUTH CULTURES AN]) TILEORIES ON YOUTHCultural studies, especially the study of youth cultures, is a relatively new field andthis is mostly due to the fact that the proliferation of unique and diverse cultures has occurredonly since the end of the second world war. However, there has been a substantial amount oftheoretical work in this area to almost parallel the pace of the emergence of new youthcultures.Punk rock is obviously not the first or only youth subculture to have ever existedwithin modem society. There have been, and will continue to be, numerous cultures ofvarying importance, style, and longevity in the urban environment as they react to and createother cultures. Additionally, there have been a variety of theoretical viewpoint generated forthe purpose of explaining the meaning, functions, effects, and purposes of these cultures.Therefore, before beginning my presentation, explanation, understanding, and application ofwhat I believe to be a more appropriate way to understand contemporary youth cultures Iprovide in this chapter: 1) a brief summary of a number of popular/youth musical cultureswhich proceeded 90’s punk rock descendent (Grunge) and 2) a variety of academicallygenerated concepts, theories, meanings, and uses revolving around the concepts of culture andsubculture, youth culture, popular culture, and rock music. The purpose behind this is to forma background of youth culture and theory against which punk and contemporary theoreticalmethods can be understood.302.1 HISTORY OF YOUTH (SUB)CULTURESWhen the history of youth cultures and their associated relationship with pop and rockmusic is discussed a common starting point has always been the period of time following thesecond world war; a period and music “that [has become] associated with the post-warconstruction of notions like the teenager, generation gap, youth culture, and youth subculture’(Redhead 1990: 8). This ignores, though, the rich and diverse history of popular music priorto the war and the roots of what are known as pop and rock music. Of course what we areinterested in is pop and rock music but, first of all, the roots of these musical styles have tobe recognized.Because of hard economic times and a relatively small teenager population prior to thesecond world war, an environment conducive to the formation of popular and/or youthcultures, as we currently conceive them, did not exist. However, “people in the 1920’s and1930’s, as before then, were rebellious in certain ways - rebellious sexually and artistically...Their rebellion was evidenced in a greater infusion of jazz into popular music, and in thegrowing popularity of colored vocalists and instrumentalists” (Mooney 1972: 182). In orderfor a cultural style to flourish in the modern society a large market with a surplus of funds forleisure activities and goods is required. Therefore, “prevailing taste in popular music wasshaped by a white [older] middle class, self-consciously hedonistic, relatively prosperous at atime when ... income was so narrowly distributed” (ibid: 182). The effect that this had was totemper or water-down the aggressiveness of the jazz music created by black artists with“highbrow’ innovations or just sweetly pretty styling” (ibid: 184) in the form of commercialbig-band orchestration. And the ballads which these bands produced, with a raw blues31feelings underlying them, were rendered in a ‘timid’, ‘respectable’, ‘sweet’, and ‘harmonious’manner or style. It is these same underlying styles and forms of music (jazz and blues) thateventually, with the formation of a large and affluent teenage population, influence the laterforms of popular youth music.2.1(a Rock ‘n’ RollIn addition to the upper-middle class popular cultures of the pre-war and war-timeperiods the popular youth cultures of the post-war era also owe a great deal to the artisticstylings of black jazz and blues musicians. The first of these cultures and the one from whichall other future youth cultures either derive from or respond to is the rock and roll musicculture.“The impact of rhythm and blues (R & B) on youth music in the 195U’s and 1960’swas, in many respects, just another example of the continuing process through whichwhite popular music has been invigorated by styles and values drawn from blackculture - styles and values that lose their original force and meaning as they passthrough the bland wringer of mass music but are rediscovered by each newgeneration of hip musicians and audiences” (Frith 1983: 16).Elements of black music style, such as spontaneity, immediacy, melody and rhythm (asopposed to theme and harmony), improvisation, emotional feeling and impact, passion,sexuality, desire, aggressiveness, imagination and physical energy, became a means for agrowing population of relatively affluent white teenagers to express, often within the contextof rebellion, their previously suppressed thoughts and feelings.32Rock ‘n’ roll (a term which, rumour has it, is a euphemism for the rhythm ofmovement during sexual intercourse) is the first musical style that came to represent the“early recognition of teenage culture in which pop music and youth consciousness wereintegrated” (ibid: 203). There are other popular musical styles present in western culture suchas folk and country (which later become fused with rock to form new styles), but this was themusical style that came to combine ideology and age cohort. Replacing the bland andinoffensive styling and crooning of such adult-created and authorized performers as PerryComo, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, and Patti Page there was, finally, a music style byteenagers for teenagers. Rock introduced the use of the loud electric guitar, driving rhythmdrum beat, uttering dance, and the crooning vocals. Musicians who came to prominenceperforming this early period style of rock were such acts as Bill Haley and the Comets,Buddy Holly, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and, later, the Beatles. These performers were similar inpersonal background and interest to the teenage audiences which allowed for the formation ofa strong and intimate bond and a minimized distance between the two; conditions that had notpreviously existed between artist and listener. It was through this combination of teen-performer and teen-audience that allowed for and promoted a new consciousness and a senseof belonging to a popular culture or generation; to a common appreciation and experience.This common experience surrounding rock music began to separate youth from the adultpopulation, thereby, creating a generation gap within cultural understandings. “Youth usedrock as a way of setting their own standards and disseminating them through peer interaction”(Martin and Segrave 1988: 14).Whatever these standards may have been, it was clear that the adult population and the33music industry were not receptive or supportive. As Martin and Segrave completely illustratein their book Anti-Rock: the Opposition to Rock ‘n’ Roll, the adult world opposed all theelements associated with rock music and resisted the forces of teen culture and especially theinvigorating force emanating from music. Because rock music was written, played, andperformed by teenagers, Martin and Segrave believe adults feared the loss of their authorityachieved through production control. Up until the late 1950’s pop music by and for whiteswas bland and inane in that any sense of creative enthusiasm and incitement had beenremoved in order for it to appeal and sell to all social groups and categories. When R & Bbecame increasingly popular in the early 50’s the white music industry, in order to capitalizeon the opportunity and regain control over the youth music market, again exploited blackmusicians by having white artists do covers of their songs for which the former saw verylittle, if any, remuneration for. Naturally, the lyrics, double entendres which often dealtopenly with sexual topics, had to be altered. The beginning of rock was the beginning of aseries of social questionings, debates, and battles over taboos and values. “The hostility [torock] was racial and some of it came from those who were uptight about anything remotelysexual. Most of it had to do with the opposing values between youth and adult, betweenchildren and parents, as teenagers developed their own set of values and morality” (ibid: 20-21)The concept of youth became associated with a consciousness, a set of values, thatopposed the established values of parents and authority. Previously, only ‘delinquent’ childrenhad been seen as a separate group but “what the notion of the teenager did in the 195 0’s wasblur (the) distinction between the ordinary and the violent kids - the suggestion was that all34teenagers lacked a moral code° (Frith 1983: 184). If this opposition was occurring, in theforming and separating of new social categories, what was the growing consciousness andnew set of values and morality associated with the culture of rock that was taking hold of theyounger generation? It can be seen to have started with the increasing wealth of workingteenagers and the coinciding and related decrease of parental control. Youth became adesirable condition free of the narrow restrictiveness of maturity and teenage culture became amodel of irregular, spontaneous, unpredictable, exhibitionistic behaviour. For young people,many of whom still enjoyed the luxury of living with their parents, the pursuit of leisure andpleasure had become a way of life and the choices in this life were, if not dictated, at leastinfluenced by the growing social dominance of the modem mass media. Images and ideastransported through this modem form of communication created and spoke to a consciousnessbased on the freedom of the young individual from traditional authority figures andrestrictions of social responsibility. An ‘ethos’ of modernity, of the new taking over the old,pervaded the desires and actions of these youth and the modem musical forms and stylesfound in rock n’ roll were perfect complements to this sensibility. Rock had an active part toplay in the promulgation of this consciousness: “rock is made in order to have emotional,social, physical, commercial results; it is not music made for ‘its own sake’° (Frith 1983: 14),it is a means not an end (ibid). The only inevitable result during this period of new versusold, leisure and consumption oriented affluence, and rock n’ roll was the continued associationof rock music and youth cultural style. To think young is to be young and to act accordinglyin a cultural style is to express these thoughts.352.1(b) Decades of Rock Culture and New ValuesThe association of rock and pop music with the expression of new, modemconsciousness is seen in the formation of a variety of youth cultures through the last fewdecades (pop music + youth consciousness youth culture). The history of rock can be seenas the history of new emerging values in modem times and below are some generalizationsand summaries of some of the more significant or important rock cultural styles from the 60’s,70’s, and 80’s that were significant for many members of the generations or age cohorts atthose times and led the way for contemporary youth cultures.2.1(b)i The 1960’s: the Hippie MovementOne, if not the most, important youth culture that defined the 1960’s was the hippieculture. While it would be erroneous to suggest that most of the kids in the 60’s were part ofthis style and that everyone of that age cohort could be considered a hippie, the fact that theculture had a wide and far reaching effect geographically as well as chronologically cannot bedenied. The hippie movement culture is recognized as the first rock ‘n’ roll culture that hadpolitical purpose as part of its discourse and “for the first time in the history of Americanpopular music, music innovators were coming in significant numbers from middle-classWASP families” (Curtis 1987: 126). In the face of a horrific war and a variety of socialcontradictions there was a growing lack of respect for the society that produced them andfound it difficult to respect other forms of authority. Seen as a counterculture whichchallenged traditional concepts of career, education, and morality the “hippies have beenconceptualized in the literature as educational dropouts, seeking an escape from the36technocratic, materialistic society of modem industrialism, seeking a romantic revival of apastoral innocence. Their lifestyle, especially their use of drugs and their sexualexperimentation, has been discussed in great detail (Berger ,1967; Davis, 1967; Willis, 1978;Young, 1973)” (Brake 1985: 90).The feelings and ideas were transcribed into youth cultures and a common narrative ofthe hippie culture was to be expressive and more in touch with one’s and other’s feelings asopposed to the more individualistic instrumentalism that they perceived of the modernizingindustrial mainstream culture. Deriving from an ethos similar to that which influenced earlynineteenth century European Romanticism the experimentation with drugs and sexualfreedom, expression through flamboyant ‘freak’ clothing, growing one’s hair long, and creatingpsychedelic artwork was a move, as Naisbitt phrased it, to a ‘high touch culture, one whichinvolves the human desire for an increased sensual awareness in response to the increase in‘high tech’ which decreased human sensation (Naisbitt 1984: 34). In this cultural expressionwhich can be thought of as a form of resistance or opposition to what mainstream society wasbecoming in its singleminded stance towards technological advancement, the hippie culturefulfilled Mannheim’s (1952) requirement for a culture to be a counterculture; that members ofan age group, with their alternative intellectual and organizational values and lifestyles beactive in trying to influence social change. Laufer and Bengston (1974: 186-188) suggest thatthe cause of such a social movement was due to the subordination that the youth of the uppermiddle and middle-class groups of the time were experiencing. Noted for its sense ofidealism, the social values that this culture seemed to be advancing were seen in the culturalexpressions that stressed “cooperation over competition, expression over individualism, being37over doing, making art over making money and autonomy over obedience” (Flacks 1971:129). A familiar phrase from the period held that ‘the personal is the political’ and that thecultural expressions of the members reflected their political beliefs, that their folkiness was aromance of the political. The stress on expressiveness over instrumentalism resulted in acultural gap due to the lack of ability by an adult world informed by rational, objective,modem way of thinking unable to comprehend the cultural meaning. However, thecommunity’s cultural idea of focussing on ‘dropping out’ and ‘doing one’s own thing’ for thesake of self-improvement or self-discovery as resistance against social dictation of identityeventually led to an extreme, and philosophically contradictory, element of individualismwhich is an extension of the modem notion of being or finding oneself.In becoming the first youth culture to use music as a form of social consciousness, thehippie culture embraced the power and authenticity of folk music to speak about its concernswith society. “In the 1960’s, as young whites, particularly on college campuses, becamepolitically active again, they found in folk music the only expressive form that could be madedirectly responsive to their political concerns” (Curtis 1987: 29). Folk music carried with itexpressions of values that the youth were coming to embrace. Based on its associations withrural romanticism and political populism which opposed urban corruption, commerce, andmass music, it was a music of and for the people to voice protest against what theyconsidered as subordination. Consequently, folk music became integral to culture,community, and ideology and helped to define the hippie community.Originally, rock music was a form of music that modem youth used as a means toescape the teenage concerns of ‘puberty, family, and school’ and to express ‘fun, excitement,38anxiety, and sexiness’ (Curtis 1987: 50). But, when the hippie culture began to integrate itinto their style, as it too was a music of the working class, rock became recognized ascountercultural and the community grew. In its association with the hippie movement rock ‘n’roll worked into the discourse of the counterculture accounts of loudness and rebellion thatthe middle-class kids were celebrating, thereby, “in the 60’s rock music came to represent aself-conscious and politically assertive youth” (Brake 1985: 188). While the combination offolk and rock saw the creation of many ‘classic’ bands and memorable songs the expressivedifferences between the two styles eventually infected each other and redivided the culture.Part of rock ‘n’ roll’s appeal as teenage music had been that anyone could do it but in the1960’s performance had been developed to such an individually creative and personal levelthat audience participation was not possible (Frith 1983: 30). Folk performers had becomevalued for their genius and as a result the general rock audience could not appreciate it.Similarly, folk songs became compromised in the mid-1960’s as rock pushed folk from thepolitical to the more personal and commercial. “Conventions in lyrics became increasinglyliterary and the artistic distance between singer and audience was confirmed musically by theshift from acoustic to electronic instruments, from the stage to the studio” (ibid: 31).Consequently, by the end of the 60’s this division and shift in the hippie folk music hadspawned two of the next decades youth/music cultural styles: heavy metal, or arena rock, andart rock.392.l(b)ii The 70’s: Art Rock. Disco, and Heavy MetalThe consequence of the 60’s culture becoming oriented on the individual performer, onstudio work, and on commercialism was that it led to the transition from rock as release torock as art in the 70’s. In fact, Frith states that “rock’s best music was increasingly explainedin terms not of community but of art” (Frith 1983: 52). It seemed that the discourseexpressing community concerns were being replaced by those focussing on the individual.This change was expressed in the proliferation of album-oriented recordings, rock as a dance-oriented music, and the removal of passion from rock.Art and Studio RockRock that combined artistry and the studio formed a new notion of what some rockwas about. “An increasing number of bands and performers aimed their music at an album-buying market of hip, mostly male music freaks... Rock music [now] meant lengthy studioworkouts, rich and elaborate sounds; it was music made for expensive stereos and FM radiosand campus concerts” (ibid: 213). With these notions of art and rock as a consumer productand the required accumulation of a musical expertise and equipment, art rock, or what is alsoknow as ‘progressive rock’ with the likes of such bands (or super-groups) as Pink Floyd,Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull and Yes, was a music not directed towards teenagers butperfect for the aging and affluent middle-class baby boomer who could hear and appreciatethe musical experimentation done in the studio and the personal confession of the artist. Theconcerts that toured in support of the concept albums “evolved into grandiose spectacles thatclosed up the ambiguity between the performers and the audience”(Curtis 1987: 237). Thehuge arenas, stage sets, and massive amounts of technical equipment required to hold the40stage and enough people to make it financially worthy, evoke the imagery, and reproduce thealbum sounds finally severed the two. The equipment that made the prog-rock bands famousby giving them their sound also alienated them from their audiences as it was difficult to heara connection between the performers and what they were playing due to the effects of theircomplex equipment. Pink Floyd even made an album, The Wall, about the alienation theyexperienced from the audience through the process of rock stardom. While this complex,symbolic, and personal music “(made) for great listening while stoned, either at home or inthe concert hall” (ibid: 282), “it didn’t meet the dancing needs of a working-class weekend; itsounded wrong on a cheap transistor radio; it offered few idols for the teeny-bopper’sbedroom wall” (Frith 1983: 213). In this change of attitude towards music and the audience,from performance to composition and from consumer participation to consumer appreciation,“the professional rock musician had achieved a unique (and temporary) situation in which artand commerce were complementary and not contradictory” (ibid: 74).Disco“Disco was about eroticism and ecstasy as material goods, produced not by spiritualor emotional work, God or love, but by technology, chemistry, wealth”(Frith 1983: 247)On the other side of the musically artistic coin was the completely participant orientedmusic of disco which combined the elimination of the rock star system, an aesthetic elementof gay and feminine expression, and the celebration of artificiality and consumption. Whilethe studio art rock and its associated stage presentation overwhelmed and isolated theaudience, disco was the audience, thereby, “decentraliz[ing] music by obsolescing the star41system” (Curtis 1987: 300). “Disco, in which no one had a sense of the presence ofmusicians and singers at all - the audience consisted of dancers who were themselves theshow” (Curtis 1987: 237). Avoiding the jerk and grind and thrust of rock’, disco was asinuous, body music that could only be really enjoyed in the company of other people. Thisstyle of music brought the text of dance into popular culture as the audience/dancers becamethe show’s performers and focus. In addition to the introduction of dance, disco is alsoconsidered as one of the first cultures that introduced a sexual and narcissistic aesthetic intomainstream pop culture; an aesthetic use and experience that reflected a gay consciousnessand romanticism. Expressing the changing sexual mores of society in the 70’s “disco wasmusic for singles bars, sexual mobility, heterosexual cruising, weekend flings, and transitoryfantasies” (Frith 247); an attitude that was artificial and transient in its regard of sexuality andits consumption. While the musically ‘progressive’ and album-oriented bands wereappreciated for the creative expressions of their self-confessions, disco was completelyconcerned with a display of self-centredness and sexuality. It celebrated “the pleasures ofconsumption and the pleasures of sex [which] became... the same thing”(ibid: 247). Affluenceand elegance were back in fashion. Curtis (1987) holds that disco was completely concernedwith and accepted artificiality, a self- conscious, aggressive, ‘deliberate artificiality’, thatexpressed a narrative of narcissism that seemed to be pervasive in society at the time. Disco,as a style of the modern era, also relied on technology for its ‘artificial’ texts. The synthesizerbecame a vital element to disco recording with their metronomically regular rhythm tracksthat allowed production engineers to technologically construct the dance song. Similarly, inthe disco where the mood of the dancers ruled the new ‘star’ of music emerged. The DJ used42various forms of technical innovation to create new and unique mixes of beats and soundsthat would satisfy the dancers/performers. As a culture, “disco (unlike bohemia) signifie(d)nothing, (made) no expressive claims - if bohemia suggest(ed) a different way of life, discosimply offer(ed) a different experience of it”(Frith 1983: 246). “Disco made no claims to folkstatus; there was no creative disco community. The music was, rather, the new internationalsymbol of American consumer society” (ibid: 247). Consequently, disco with the “impliedmusic audience [that] consisted of stoned, flashily dressed dancers of assorted sexualpreferences in the urban, high-tech environment of a club” (Frith 1983: 301) can beconsidered as “the consumate modern style” (Jones 1980: 267).Heavy MetalEven though disco reflected the changing sexual mores of society it was, however, toophysical and too sexual for some. It demanded listeners and participants who were morecomfortable with their bodies than teenagers - it was a culture designed more for theegocentrical, becoming affluent and aging boomers. The style which not only removed thesensual from culture but removed passion from music and replaced it with aggression washeavy metal. This style was the other half of the art, studio, arena rock of the 70’s.Like the art rock bands heavy metal was oriented to the production of albums andpresentation in concert. However, the importance of heavy metal came in the experience ofthe new, high level sounds the bands produced, rather than the expression of complex musicaland literary compositions. “With heavy metal, the experience is everything - the poundingbass and drums, the screaming guitar, the prancing lead singer, and most of all, most43important of all, the volume turned up so high that you don’t so much hear it as feel it”(Curtis 1987: 286). This style of music, made popular by the likes of Black Sabbath, GrandFunk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, and Blue Oyster Cult, became defined by the huge sound itproduced and its capability to play to massive audiences, something which earlier stylescouldn’t achieve. Following the 70’s trend of social enclosure, in balancing off the opennessof the 60’s, rock moved to the new enclosed stadiums and “not for nothing is heavy metal,probably the dominant style of the seventies, sometimes called ‘arena rock,’ for it’s about theonly kind of music you can play to crowds over 50,000 people”(ibid: 236). Metal bandscould play to these larger audiences, the sizes of which meant more money per performance,because of the better and more technologically advanced equipment and sound systemsavailable. Bigger, better, and louder speakers and amplifiers were used onstage and gavebirth to a new style of rock band like Led Zeppelin who could not have been possible in themid-60’s (Grossman 1976: 124). Even though the heavy metal bands lyrically dealt with avariety of socially relevant and sometimes spiritually cleansing ideas and topics it still tendedto be a ‘body-feeling’ music (now seen in the expression of headbanging and fist wavingaudiences) than ‘mind-thinking’ as it gave the listener “an experience which purifie(d) themind: you can’t think or say anything at a heavy metal concert” (Curtis ibid: 286) making itrelatively anonymous and isolationist.Even though heavy metal removed that 60’s essence of community behind and fromthe creation and performance of music and often railed against the optimistic and joyfuloutlook that seemed to pervade the hippie style, the style was both a “working-class reactionagainst flower power [which] helped to form (it)” (ibid: 290) and an embracing of some of its44attitudes. “The lasting popularity of heavy metal throughout the seventies is symptomatic ofthe spread of sixties attitudes to high school kids and working class kids” (ibid: 290). Heavymetal, then, was one of the first forms of music that was not popularized by the baby boomergeneration but by the ‘dazed and confused’ generation that had not been old enough to be apart of the sixties but had been aware enough to see ‘their older brothers and friends go off toVietnam while college kids burned American flags’ which can be understood as a reason forthe gradual seepage of “new values and a sense of personal entitlement... into theconsciousness of all young people not just college youth” (Yankelovich 1974: 228).Reflecting a similar trend amongst college kids of a decline in the belief of the connectionbetween hard work and success, studies at the time began to show that working-class kids,too, displayed a decline in the belief of ‘traditional American values’ such as hard work (ibid:30-31). In reacting to and, in terms of numbers, surpassing the music styles of the sixties,Heavy metal helped fill or blast away the anxiety-causing void for a lot of North Americanteenagers who were finding themselves with a lot of leisure time and questions about theirconfusing modern society.2.1(b)iii The 1980’s?Trying to do a brief summary of the 1980’s youth cultures becomes a bit confusing,because during this decade there doesn’t seem to be one culture that was popularly importantor significant other than punk which I described in the previous chapter. I think that with theadvent of music video and television networks completely directed towards playing andpromoting them, such as MTV and Much Music, and the corporate concerns of profit45involved there had been little chance to create other substantial and meaningful youthcultures. With the modern need to continuously overturn the old and bring in the new,musical styles in the video-electronic age have little chance for longevity. Consequently, themultiple and fragmentary styles have low percentage popularity when related to previousculture’s numbers and, therefore, have too small a foundation to support significant culturalcommunities. In this period only the photogenic and image-conscious band becomes knownand pop music, the danceable but not intellectually substantial style, comes back into fashion.Bands like Culture Club, Duran Duran, Men at Work and individual chameleon-like artistssuch as Michael Jackson and Madonna become the quickly moving sterilized images on ourtv’s. I can only assume that after a decade of this substantialless, completely modern materialthat decreased the feeling of community and completely distanced the viewer from performer,punk and grunge, the discourse of the style that opposed such pop culture, was a viable andappealing culture for a popular mainstream youth audience to assume.2.2 SOME THEORIES iN THE STUDY OF YOUTH CULTURETheories and studies about and of youth cultures occurred as youth began to stronglyidentify with itself as a social group or dominant society felt that youth was ganging together.As youth cultures did not really exist until after the second World War, there have beenrelatively few theories of them. Since then, however, both American and British sociologistshave created what amounts to two traditions concerning youth subcultural research. Whilesome “contemporary theories of youth culture, especially in Britain, has been influenced byMarxist thought”(Brake 1985: 3) others, mostly American, have been influenced by46structuralist thought. The structuralist tradition of thought suggests that in response to variouschanges in structures of society those effected by the changes will develop various delinquentsocial behaviour in order to adjust to these changes. Marxist thought holds that the mode ofproduction also creates a social relation of production among the classes meaning that thosewho control the means of production also have control over the means of mental production,thereby, culture (Brake 1985: 30-57). Subcultures can form as an expression and extension ofopposition by the class from which their members came in response to dominant culture andits maintaining of consent, or hegemony (ibid: 3-7). In this section I briefly summarize someof the more popular theories which use either one of these perspectives as foundations fortheir ideas.2.2(al Youth Subculture as Deviant or DelinquentThe roots of viewing youth subcultures as deviant or delinquent are found in theChicago School of the 1920’s and 30’s. The work of Cooley, Mead, Thomas, Park, Thrasher,and White, for example, using a methodology of urban documentation, reformism, andempiricism based on the interview, created a”Chicago model [that] was based on plantecology adapted to city life” (Brake 1985: 34). This was founded on the postulate that the‘mutually advantageous’ equilibrium of the plant world was also present in urban life. It wasproposed that human beings, like plants, symbiotically live together in ‘natural areas’ such asneighbourhoods. The concept of social disorganization was introduced to describe thesituations of disequilibrium that occur when the biotic balance of competition and cooperationin urban neighbourhoods has been upset due to various social changes such as urban growth.47Social solidarity and social control begin to break down and delinquency rates become aconstant in the areas. Study was done on the resulting gangs or social organizations thatformed in the changing urban areas to understand “the delinquent’s serious endeavour to makesense of his life, and, secondly, to distinguish the fantasy life of the gang from reality” (ibid:36). The school strived to isolate those features of urban life which ecologically encourageddelinquency.A second theory that considers youth subculture as delinquency is the anomie theorytaken from the Durkheimian concept which argues for a condition of ‘normiessness’ thatoccurs when a disturbance of the social order occurs (Durkheim, 1951). “The source ofanomie is found in the strain arising between the collective moral authority (‘collectiveconscience’) and individual interests. Anomie arises when the ‘collective conscience’ fails tocontrol individual aspirations” (Brake 1985: 48). Schweitzer mentions in his description andassesment of Durkheim’s concepts, structures and reform strategies related to anomie anddisanomie that the program provides “normative-evaluative grounds for a diagnosis andcritique of anomie and a practical humanistic solution”(Schweitzer 1991: 83) yet “his remedialprescriptions are fundamentally predisposed in a way that favors the needs and interests ofmanagement and capital over those of human labor”(ibid: 84). Merton’s version of theanomie theory lies in the structural strain created by differential access to structures ofopportunity. “The consequences of such structural inconsistency are psychopathology ofpersonality, andlor anti-social conduct and/or revolutionary activities” (Merton 1938: 678). Inresponse to the failure of society to provide both acceptable goals and means for its citizensvarious adaptations (‘predominantly dysfunctional’) are made which often lead to delinquency.48In reply, however, A.K. Cohen argued that Merton forgot to take into consideration ‘non-utilitarian, malicious and negativistic behaviour’ in working-class subcultures (Cohen, A.K.,1955). He felt that the delinquent subcultures (typified by either conflict and violence, drugaddiction, or semi-professional thievery (Cohen and Short, 1958) were collective solutionsresulting from adolescent working-class youth status problems with and exclusion by middle-class criteria.Differing from the more deterministic orientation of the two previous theories, Matzaintroduced a phenomenological perspective to the study of delinquent subculture with anemphasis on a naturalism which he believed didn’t distort what the deviants themselves wouldrecognize as their reality. In arguing that “the subculture is a setting for the commission ofdelinquent acts commonly known to the group” (Brake 1985: 54), Matza suggests that themembers are neither compelled nor committed to performing the delinquent deeds (Matza1964: 49) and that “delinquent values, the seeking of excitement, toughness, disdain for workare in fact not so much deviant as typical of swashbuckling leisure values held by us all”(Matza and Sykes, 1961).2.2(b Subcultures of Dominant and Subordinate Cultural RelationsBrake suggests that American subcultural theory has been seen as inappropriate to thestudy of British cultures by many British subcultural theorists and that British approaches tosuch study could be summarized into four categories: 1) social ecology of the late 1950’s andearly 1960’s, 2) studies related to the sociology of education which examine ‘youth, leisure,and youth culture as an alternative to academic advancement’, 3) studies looking at youth49groups in the context of social reaction and labelling, and 4) the work of the Centre forContemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at Birmingham University (Brake 1985: 58). Ofthese, the forth school of approach has been predominantly significant in the study ofcontemporary youth cultures. Like Stan Cohen’s (1972) unique study of folk devils and moralpanics which related youth culture and deviancy to mass media and public (over)reaction, theCCCS which “has developed a sophisticated analysis using hegemony as a central concept”(Brake ibid: 67) “unlocked the complexities of aspects of popular culture, tending to pursuethe relations between dominant and subordinate cultures” (ibid: 65).Tending to focus on the social role of commercial youth cultures while being criticizedfor elements of romanticism, overlooking negative elements, too little empirical data, and tooheavy on theory, the CCCS school developed two aspects of analysis based on differingemphasis given to structuralism and culturalism. The first was to uncover the relation ofsubcultures and class (signs) and the second was to unravel the meanings of style and fashion(signifiers) (ibid: 68). Representative of the former style is Phil Cohen’s (1972) work on theinteraction of the structures of the family, the neighbourhood and the local economy. Inhandling contradictory ‘shifts’ and deprivations in material, cultural, and economic forms,youth “subcultures try to retrieve the lost, socially cohesive elements in the parent culture;they attempt to relocate ‘in an imaginary relation’ the real relations which those in subculturescannot transcend” (Brake ibid: 67). Culture in a class structured society is lived practices thatcharacterize practical ideologies and permit members to make sense of their conditions at aparticular moment in time. It is also involved in the struggle between dominant andsubordinate classes for consent; consent to the legitimation of class relations. However, this50consent is continually changing, as domination is never total, and the use of subculture helpsprovide ‘space’ for that class (ibid: 68).The latter form of analysis, such as Clarke’s (1976) and Hebdige’s (1976), uses LeviStrauss’ concept of bricolage to look at youth cultures’ styles, argot, and appearances to arguethat objects and symbols become ‘reordered and recontextualized’ to communicate new andfresh meanings. Objects and their meanings constitute together a sign when assembled in aculture of society but when they are rearranged or put into a different context can convey adifferent meaning or message. “For Hall and Jefferson (1976) homology showed howappropriated objects were related to focal concerns, group structure, collective self-image;these appropriated objects were now where subcultural members could see their central valuesheld and reflected” (Brake ibid: 69). In general, the CCCS argue that although “subcultures,because they remain in the area of leisure, are negotiated rather than oppositional forms”(ibid: 68), “it is in popular culture, that is working-class culture of which delinquency is abehavioural aspect sometimes, that resistance is located” (ibid: 71).CONCLUSIONFrom the descriptions of earlier youth cultures it is obvious that though there are somesimilar elements, such as escape, resistance and rebellion, creativity and social consciousness,with that of punk and its contemporary descendent, grunge. However, these more recentcultures, because of their unique features, cannot, I suggest, be adequately understood usingmethods that view them as either deviant and delinquent or as a result of dominant andsubordinate cultural relations. Consequently, in the following chapters I formulate a51interpretive framework based on a combination of a few theoretical and methodologicalperspectives which I feel allows for a more appropriate understanding of contemporary youthcultural expression and meaning.52CHAPTER 3: ART, POSTMODERNISM, AUTHENTICiTY, AND SIGNIFICANCE:LOCATING AND UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING AND VALUE OFCONTEMPORARY YOUTH CULTURES“There have been 19 civilizations in the world and all of them have risen and declined. Thesigns of decline are always the same, falling values, disintegrating family life and out ofcontrol children”. (from a letter to the editor, Vancouver Sun, December 9, 1993, p. A12)“Cultural signs instead are revealed to be the instruments of the creation of new grounds, newmeanings and new institutions”. (Ryan 1988: 561)INTRODUCTIONThe history of youth cultures shows that within Western society a category of socialdifferentiation has arisen based on age and with it a continuous cycle of new and uniqueideas, beliefs, meanings, and understandings. These components are expressed as culturalsigns, texts, and discourses within the cultures themselves. Based on the information in theprevious chapter, it is apparent that youth cultures have often been defined and separatedthrough the creative and stylish expression of modern and leisurely affluent young people;idealistic expression which has often led to the fonnation of popular, yet rebellious andsocially iconoclastic, counter-cultures that were misunderstood as being indicative of out ofcontrol youth. Consequently, these cultures have had profound consequence on generationalmarket commodity interests, social institutions and personal philosophies, as well as becomethe centre for intergenerational confrontation.What makes the new contemporary youth cultures so interesting, yet disturbing, formany people is their apparent lack of ideals, interests, morals, and beliefs and the threatwhich this poses of completely and indefinitely withdrawing contemporary youth fromresponsible society. In judging the writings of Daniel Bell (The Cultural Contradictions ofCapitalism (1976)), Allan Bloom (The Closing of the American Mind (1987)), and53Christopher Lasch (The Culture of Narcissism (1979)), it seems that some social theorists, inaddition to many members of the older generations within mainstream society, believe thatthese cultures are indicative of the modern emphasis on individualism and relativism. Theseconditions are felt to contribute to self- and socially-destructive behaviours such asegocentrism, hedonism, and self-indulgence which lead to social deviance and misconduct.However, as with most situations in which someone encounters a culture or language foreignto them, these readings could be mistaken based on the condition that the readers viewingfrom their own anthrocentric position are not properly equipped to grasp the meaning ofothers’ cultural expression. What these ideas tend to encourage, then, is the belief that theremight be new and/or better ways to try to understand contemporary cultures and society.Accordingly, the purpose of my study is to locate and apply more appropriate methods andtheories to the elements of contemporary youth culture with the intention of providing a moreintegrated and comprehensive understanding of the positive and actual personal and socialmeaning of cultural participation and expression. In the next chapter I will outline what Ibelieve to be a more suitable method for doing research on contemporary cultures while inthis chapter I will explain my own combination of theoretical perspectives which I feelprovide better frameworks for interpreting and understanding some contemporary youthcultures.Fundamental to an informed and aware interpretation and understanding ofcontemporary youth cultures and their expressions there are four elements (method,philosophy, context, and purpose) which I feel the reader needs to be conscious of. Theprimary method or vehicle by which these cultures express themselves and impart meaning is54through art. The philosophy or moral ideal that informs and can be found in the narrativediscourse of the artistic texts is defined as the ideal of authenticity. Third, the style ofexpression and discourse of the culture should be placed and understood within the propersocial and historical context, descriptive of current moods, ethos, and attitudes, which formany contemporary youth cultures is postmodernism. Finally, the manner in which thesecultures can be measured to determine if there is in fact a purpose for and outcome fromcultural participation is found in their social significance. Being conscious of these elementswill help the study of contemporary youth cultures 1) discover how, or if, members of thesecultures use aesthetic texts as an expression of meaning, 2) understand the meaning anddiscourse of the cultures’ expression, and 3) determine whether or not there is any socialsignificance to the discourse and participation in these cultures.3.1 ART iN SOCIETY AND CULTUREArt and its place and function in society has always posed difficult questions, becauseof its inherent characteristic of being created by reflective and unique human beings. Thedegree and range of thought, inspiration, and experience put into a work of art can be infinite,thereby making consensual meaning and understanding difficult and problematic. Granaindicates that to experience art is to make visible ‘certain ultimate meanings’ within its formthat other aspects of culture cannot; a statement of meaning which is ‘endlessly renewed’(Grana 1989: 17-18). This is echoed in the belief that “the activity of art is based on the factthat a man, receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man’s expression offeeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it”55(Tolstoy 1930: 171). While I believe that the importance of art is that it can reveal meaningsand understanding and can do so on an ongoing and progressive basis, I do not think thatthere can be any ‘ultimate’ meanings that hold for every individual and/or in all cases. Thetruth to art is that it can be interpreted and understood in an infinite number of ways betweenand within people.3.1(a) Understanding ArtIf art can be interpreted in a number of different ways, how, then, is art ever to beunderstood? I think we can agree that when the spectator experiences the aesthetic of a workof art it either holds meaning for them or that it is just a meaningless object of curiosity. Toknow or try to discover the artist’s intent is not neccessaiy since meanings are an affair of theconsciousness of the text reader (Hirsch 1984) and if the reader is not conscious or receptiveto any meanings in a text then it will continue to have no meaning. This is because the“aesthetic experience.., is a mode of self-understanding. But all self-understanding takes placein relation to something else that is [previously] understood” (Gadamer 1975: 369). What thissuggests is that in a Heideggerean-style hermeneutical circle of interpretation aesthetic textsgain their meaning and understanding, misunderstanding, or non-understanding through thefore-conceptions and fore-meanings held by the reader prior to interaction with the piece. “Ifa person fails to hear what the other person is really saying, he (has not been) able to placecorrectly what he has misunderstood within the range of his own various expectations ofmeaning” (ibid: 379). So, in the first place, the task of understanding art or aesthetical textualexperiences, including contemporary culture, requires an openness by the reader “to the text’squality of newness [with] the conscious assimilation of ones’s own fore-meanings and56prejudices” (ibid: 380). The reader must allow for the origination of their own personalmeaning that occurs due to the interaction between an artistic text and their own previouslyheld understandings.A viewer, or reader, need not try to discover the artist’s original intent because it maynot even be there; the artist, possibly creating from an unqualifiable consciousness, may nothave known the meaning themselves. The act of understanding art and aesthetic texts is acreative and ongoing process in itself, as it incorporates a whole range of dynamic and variedelements which can simultaneously impinge on a reader’s textual interpretation, thereby,allowing for an almost infinite range of possible meamings. These possibilities can vary fromthe actual physical aspects of the work of art, the setting within which the piece is viewed,the reader’s fore-conceptions and fore-meanings, the mood of the reader at the time ofviewing, and to, quite possibly, what the viewer had for breakfast. It is this condition ofalmost infinite variation that leads to discussions, also known as arguments, about what is artand what is not, and what is ‘good’ art and what is not. People, because of the seeminglyinfinite number of possibile of experiences, will not always be able to completely agree onthese matters. Some works ‘speak’ to some people and not to others, or at least they saydifferent things. Agreement is more likely to occur in cases where readers share foreconceptions and fore- meanings based on such things as shared or similar experience, culture,and environment. This is not to say that because people are of a different experience (eg.race, gender, religious) that they cannot understand art created from another perspective or,conversely, that people of similar experience will completely understand another’s art basedon that experience. However, as human beings with various capacities of fore-conceptions,57everyone has the ability to reflect on images presented to them by other human beings andglean even a small amount of meaning from any piece. It is the place of this study to impartof bit of fore-meaning to the reader for the purpose of approaching contemporary youthcultures and understanding them.3.1(b Social Role of ArtArt plays a socially relevant role by providing, in a variety of manners, instances ofsignificant forms which evoke emotions and thoughts that humans react to. “We have noother measure of recognising a work of art than our feeling for it” (Bell, C. 1958: 417). Thisis an experience that is often not possible in a non-creative and non-aesthetic manner because“the work of art ..., unlike the machine, is not only the outcome of imagination, but operatesimaginatively rather than in the realm of physical existencies” (Dewey 1934: 274). Thecreative and receptive process of art is a combination of imagination, revelation, andcommunication that plays upon subjective comprehension using objective material within therealm of reality. It is in this way, due to the interpretive and reflexive actions which artcommands, that art helps or stimulates people to gather and locate meaning in something theymay not have otherwise seen or understood. And, because there is a considerable andongoing variation in possible perspectives and conditions, the result is a range of experiencesand understandings which can lead to a myriad of consequential, yet indeterminable, personaland social changes.What this concept invokes is a decidedly discursive and dialectical element in art. “Itseems that art as art expresses a truth, an experience, a necessity which, although not in the58domain of radical praxis, are nevertheless essential components of revolution (Marcuse 1978:1). The work, produced with some idea, image, or feeling in mind by the artist, becomes amaterial object in reality allowing for an aesthetic experience for author and reader alike, and,while the ‘revolution’ may not be on a grand scale, change can occur on various personal andsocial levels. In an inter-textual weaving between the piece of art, the receptive reader, andtheir fore-understandings, the experience attains some new form of meaning and, referringback to Gadamer, allows or provokes some self-understanding within the reader in relation tofore-conceptions of self and/or society which themselves undergo consequential andundeterminable questioning, re-interpretation, and change (Gadamer 1984: 386). Thesemomentary changes can vary on scale of consequence but change does happen and over aperiod, with repetitive and circular acts of reinterpretation and interaction, substantial changeis possible yet indeterminable. Akin to the dialectical process where previously existingelements interact and conflict with each other resulting in the formation of something new andpreviously unforseen, horizons of personal and social significance are fused in the process ofinterpreting and understanding art resulting in a change, however slight, in perceptions ofboth. These unforseen yet definite changes in perception become the effect of art on thesocial.3.2 AUTHENTICITY: THE CONTEMPORARY MORAL IDEALThe basis for this concept of authenticity is found in Charles Taylor’s book, Malaise ofModernity, wherein it is described how a new moral ideal exists in spite of the modernmalaises or declines that contemporary society is experiencing. He proposes that with the59progression of the modern character of self-absorbed individualism many people feel thatthere has been a flattening and narrowing of our lives, that we have experienced a “loss of aheroic dimension to life”(Taylor 1991: 4), and “we suffer from a lack of passion”(ibid: 4).With the growth of self-absorbed individualism where nothing beyond or transcending theindividual is important there has been a strengthening of reason based on efficiency andinstrumentalism that tends to ignore the benefits of social cohesion and responsibility. Thishas produced a society without lasting, solid, substantial elements; everything (relationships,tradition, culture) is just another form of junk food’ consumed for a quick, yet ephemeral, fixand satisfaction. The consequence of these malaises is a disease of apathy and political nonparticipation which allows for the loss of freedom due to the co-opting of individual politicalpower by opportunistic bureaucrats (ibid: 2-9).The opinions about cultures resulting from such conditions are divided. On the onehand, critics (such as Bloom 1987, Lasch 1979, and Bell, D. 1976) with recourse tometaphysical reason and scientific method describe the cultural feature of soft-relativism,within which the traits of self-fulfilment and non-interference are prominent, as being basedon the socially destructive and morally vacant attitudes of narcissism and egocentrism,hedonism and self-indulgence. Taylor, on the other hand, believes, and I concur, that thesecritics, who tend to focus on the trivial and self-indulgent forms, have failed to recognize theexistence of a powerful ideal at work in many of the contemporary cultures. He proposes thatin some cases the contemporary understanding of self-fulfilment has resulted in a new moralideal which he terms ‘authenticity’ (Taylor 1991: 15-16).Authenticity in the contemporary period is not seen, or should not always be seen, to60be the image which the critics portray but a blend of (1) self-controlled and self-consciousindividualism and (2) self-determined moral motivation based on the liberalism of self-determining freedom and its social recognition (ibid: 38-40). Cultures expressive of this idealwill be characterized by discourses supportive of individual self-fulfillment, self-definingchoice, and identity self-determination, often discovered in dialougue within the intimatesphere, while being conscious of and socially recognizing a fairness for all to equally realizetheir potentials, choices, and identities. In the case of socially significant cultures, thosecultures which recognize some sort of shared horizons of important social issues, authenticityis supported by opposition to, and criticism of, the tendency to individualistic deviancy asfound in self-centered, disengaged, and instrumental rationality (ibid: 50-53).As Taylor puts it: “briefly, we can say that authenticity (A) involves (i) creation andconstruction as well as discovery, (ii) originality, and frequently (iii) opposition to the rules ofsociety and even potentially to what we recognize as morality. But it is also true, as we saw,that it (B) requires (i) openness to horizons of significance (for otherwise the creation losesthe background that can save it from insignificance) and (ii) a self-definition in dialogue.That these demands may be in tension has to be allowed. But what must be wrong is asimple privileging of one over the other, of (A), say, at the expense of (B), or viceversa”(ibid: 66).3.2(a) Authenticity, Art, & Contemporary Youth CultureAuthenticity, then, is the realization of a powerful contemporary moral idealdiscovered through the methods of self-choice, self-fulfilment and being ‘true to oneself,culminating in “recovering authentic moral contact with ourselves”(ibid: 27) while61simultaneously recognizing the importance of horizons of social significance and relationships.Taylor indicates that the experience entails being true to one’s own originality achievedthrough discovery, potentiality, realization, and articulation which inevitably results in self-definition. Further, he states that such self-definition and “revelation come throughexpression..., [thereby], suggest(ing) right away a close analogy, even connection, betweenself-discovery and artistic creation” (ibid:61). That is, the process of creating art exemplifiesand requires a range of attributes which are similarly substantive of the contemporary culturalexpression of authenticity. Featherstone echoes this understanding by stating that “there areclearly strong linkages and cross-overs between the project of the aestheticization of everydaylife on the part of such groups (young ‘de-centered’ subjects) and the romantic, bohemian artschool tradition that has fed into rock music, particularly since the 1960’s, which has soughtin various ways to transgress the boundary between art and everyday life” (Featherstone 1988:208). The “erosion of faith in traditional ethical theories left an ethical horror vacui whichthe ethics of taste naturally rushes in to fill” (Shusterman 1988: 338). I believe this is truebecause, as dominant moral values, religious beliefs, and standards of knowledge and truthstart to show their inconsistencies and restrictions, become questioned, and break down, newideals and ideas to believe in are required to take their place. This replacement of ideals canmost easily occur in the process of active personal creativity and expression. This method isrelated to the same processes involved in artistic and aesthetic creation and a union of the twobecomes an almost unavoidable result for cultures forming in a contemporary, media-saturatedsociety.The direction and result of artistic expression and the originality and discovery of62personal morals is not, however, completely unrestricted and self-determined, since the“genesis of the human mind is in [a] sense not ‘monological’, not something eachaccomplishes on his or her own, but dialogical” (Taylor 1991: 33). The contemporary youthcultures expressing the ideal authenticity within their discourses will do so, then, byincorporating and/or addressing various horizons of significance within their cultural texts.The demands of these horizons, historically formed standards and moralities, interlocutiveencounters, and social conditions external to the individual living in a society, act, directly orindirectly, consciously or unconsciously, to guide or deflect the voyage of self-discovery. Theresult expresses an originality as determined by the historical culminations of the action andreaction of a reflective individual within and against both the confines of a social sphere’sconventions and inescapable horizons, both stifling and enabling (ibid: 31-41), and their owninwardly generated creative potentials (ibid: 47-49). The artistic works of an authenticcontemporary youth culture caught in the flux of disintegrating or changing traditions andtrying to make sense of their own identity will express and realize, to varying degrees, theinteraction between the self-determining creative and moral side of the individual and thesignificant recognition of social norms, institutions, and relationships.3.3 POSTMODERNITY: UNDERSTANDING CONTEMPOARY CULTURESSociety’s older generations express that they do not seem to understand today’s youthnor their cultures and believe that there is a coinciding lack or decay in moral values andsocial concern. I also expressed that evoking the contemporary moral ideal of authenticity, asdefined by Taylor, could help to understand the meaning of the new cultures and social63conditions. However, I do not agree with Taylor as to the context which this moral ideal isexpressive of. While he indicates that “authenticity is a facet of modem individualism” (ibid:44), I believe that, in response to the conditions that the ethos of modernity has created, themoral ideal is no longer expressive of the conditions of modernity but those of postmodernity.3.3(a Modernity and PostmodernitvApplying an understanding of postmodernity is more suited for the study of manycontemporary youth cultures, I feel, because it explains a change in the mode ofunderstanding for some groups of society. As Bernstein, summarizing Weber’s overallarguments, and Foucault indicate, modernity is a discourse, ‘ethos’, consciousness, and attitudewhich has influenced for a long time many socially dominant ways of thinking and actingincluding epistemology, ideology, and science (Foucault 1984: 164); a “purposive-instrumentalrationality... (which) affects and infects the entire range of social and cultural lifeencompassing economic structures, law, bureaucratic administration, and even the arts”(Bernstein 1985: 5). The shift to the postmodern defines, or is defined by, the change fromthis fundamental consciousness to another and its consequential manifestations.Frequent descriptions of modernity or modernization are pervaded with such words ascontradictory, fragmentary, multiplicity, and relativistic. Briefly, this condition arises from itsroots in Enlightenment thought and purposes of progress based on ideas of rationality,efficiency, individualism, structure, development and progress, process, and invention directedtowards finding or determining truth and the ‘good life’ which inevitably results in a continualsequence of the new quickly taking over and getting rid of the old. It is this continualprocess of turning-over and rejuvenation that led Berman (1982) to borrow Marx’s phrase ‘all64that is solid melts into air’ in order describe the ephemerality of modernity. However,underlying this fragmentation is an “epistemology for revealing what (modernism) still (takes)to be the true nature of a unified, though complex, underlying reality” (Harvey 1989: 30); alinear procession of rationalizing each new ideology or style as ‘the’ realization of ‘the’universal and eternal truth and good life.The condition of fragmentation, ephemerality, contradiction, pluralism, confusion,discontinuity, and chaotic change continues within the postmodern experience. But, whereasmodernism can be seen as the attempt to ignore or eliminate these irreconcilable conditions,the postmodern consciousness can be described as the affirmative recognition andembracement of these conditions which signifies a number of important consequences (ibid:44). An example of the postmodern embrace of plurality and the ‘play’ in this plurality can befound in the dynamic way many contemporary idividuals change their identity day-to-day,hour-to-hour to suit their immediate purposes without, seemingly, creating themselves someform of crisis about who they are. The central feature, or consequence, that distinguishespostmodernism from modernism is the disappearance of the search for or insistence on auniversal or eternal truth in its underlying ethos. “Lyotard in fact defines the postmodernsimply as an ‘incredulity towards metanarratives” (ibid: 45); a “strong ... suspicion that therereally is no such thing (as intrinsic or essential nature)” (Shusterman 1988: 339). The modernbelief in metanarratives is replaced by the postmodern emphasis on the exploration, discovery,and/or acceptance of ‘otherness’ and the pluralistic multitude of human discourse andexperience without having to stress one ‘voice’ over another. From this attitude, this disbelief,arise the discourse and textual forms that develop the basis for contemporary cultures.653.3(b Postmodernity, Art, and CultureThe next step is to see how this condition of postmodemism is expressed in the artsand culture. Collins, in his book Uncommon Cultures: Popular Culture & Post-Modernism,explains that cultures today provide and use a variety of simultaneous options andfragmentary assemblages in forming expressive cultural existence (Collins 1989: 27). Thepostmodem takes place in the implosion of commercialized popular culture (via theascendency and influence of the media) and the construction of postmodern identities (alsosee Baudrillard (1980, 1983), Lyotard (1986), Denzin (1988)).“Amongst the central features associated with postmodernism in the arts are: theeffacement of the boundary between art and everyday life; the collapse of the hierarchicaldistinction between high and mass/popular culture; a stylistic promiscuity favouringeclecticism and the mixing of codes; parody, pastiche, irony, playfulness and the celebrationof the surface ‘depthlessness’ of culture; the decline of the originality/genius of the artisticproducer and the assumption that art can only be repetitious” (Featherstone 1988: 203). Thesefeatures, which define the mischevious joy and dark cynicism of the individual who partakesin the postmodem creative and artistic process, are expressive of the attitude whichdisbelieves’ in metanarratives. Everyday life, then, becomes a work of art for the commonindividual, incorporating all styles and images, conflicting and complementary, of traditional,formal, kitsch, commercial, and commodified creation that are played out in a variety ofpopular media forms. This is in opposition to the often bleek, utilitarian, and structuredexpressions of modem art, “represented [by] the universal and eternal as found in theephemeral and chaotic” (Harvey 1989: 20), which is affected by unitary, centered and co66ordinated ‘Grand Hotel systems’ of thought where every piece has its set part to play in thewhole (Collins 1989: 27), and characterized by aesthetic self-consciousness, reflexivity,simultaneity and montage, paradox, ambiguity and uncertainness, and the destructured,dehumanized subject (Featherstone 1988: 202). Though many of these characteristics areshared by both styles, modernism can be thought of or symbolized as the intellectual artisteconcerned with determining the place or purpose of the individual human subject in life whilepostmodernism could be described as the idiot savant who appears to be more interested inthe thrill of unbridled and unrestricted play.Based on this hyper-desire for play, postmodern identity and cultural choice,formation, and expression occurs in the easily accessed and enjoyable sphere of consumptionand leisure as opposed to the modern realm of classical art forms and social positions.Consequently, “the identity becomes more and more unstable, more and more fragile (inpostmodem culture)” (Kellner 1992: 143) because “the overwhelming variety of subjectpositions, of possibilities for identity, [which] in an affluent culture no doubt create highlyunstable identities... constantly (provide) new openings to restructure one’s identity”(ibid:174). The postmodern condition, seen in the continually swirling, media-intensifiedcombination of select, yet incoherently disconnected, images, graphics, and elements chosenfrom an array of chaotic and diverse commercialized cultures’ texts, begins to express a vagueand complex discourse or narrative that, for some reason, attracts and then becomes the basisfor the readers consciousness resulting in a process of self-definition and identity constructionfrom this unconnected plurality. However, in contemporary postmodern conditions wherethere is a multiple variety of incompatible intentions, views, and narratives which67simultaneously appeal to the individual “the resulting configurations do not form a planned orwell-managed pluralism, but a discontinuous, conflicted pluralism, creating tension-filledenvironments that have enormous impact on the construction of both representations and thesubjects that interact within them” (Collins 1989: 27). Eventually, the cultural and identityrepresentations which are the result of postmodem conditions are themselves expressive ofpostmodem textual practices and moods. However, each postmodern representation alsoexists within a postmodem context by simultaneously co-existing alongside the presence ofother popular styles both postmodem and modem. Postmodernism, in fact, defines theheterogeneous condition of coincidental exisence of many conflicting decentered popularstyles, none which are touted as being the correct style. “One could describe precisely the coexistence of styles, this mixture of traditional, modem, and postmodem cultural forms as‘postmodem’ (Keilner 1992: 171).3.4 SIGNIFICANCE: SOCIAL AGENCY FROM CULTURAL PARTICIPATIONI do not believe it is neccessary for a culture to intentionally have some idea of socialsignificance as part of its purpose for existing or expressing itself, however, the existence of aculture should be seen as an indication of some existence of significance. The simple factthat some individuals somehow arrived at a form of concerted effort of expression denotessocial significance, no matter how small. This section recognizes and responds to some of thecriticisms directed towards contemporary cultures and provides some perspective as to how, infact, these cultures can be interpreted as socially significant. I also locate the components ofthe culture that contain and express the discourse which makes these cultures significant.683.4(aI Commodification and SignificanceAs previously mentioned, commodification is central to the popularizing ofcontemporary cultures and it is this element which has led many critics to reject any notion ofpostmodern expression as being genuine or able to provide real social meaning, commentary,or change. The intellectual rejection of popular culture is not new as Ross (1989a) indicatesand “the commodity status of both popular and Post-modernist texts appears to be their‘original sin” (Collins 1989: 124). As Stauth and Turner relay, writers within the criticaltheory perspective (such as those of the Frankfurt School) view commodity-oriented mass andpopular culture as “[incapable of posing any] significant possibility of resistance, change ortransformation in cultural systems” (Stauth & Turner 1988: 522) or in dominant society atlarge because mainstream (ie. capitalist) ideologies are believed to be unavoidablyinterconnected with the production of these ‘manufactured’ cultures. “Underlying thisrejection of a ‘mass culture’ is the belief that the commodification of cultural phenomena hasmeant their subjugation to the dominant order, and therefore their invalidation as ‘genuine’expressions of anything other than that of multi-national corporations which produce them”(Collins 1989: 124). Stauth and Turner argue that this response “tend(s) to be elitist in (its)cultural and political assumptions” (Stauth & Turner 1988: 509), “since the critique of masssociety was grounded ultimately in a firm distinction between high and low culture” (ibid:518), a distinction that postmodernism tries to erode, and is described as expressing a form ofnostalgia which is “a primary disease of ‘melancholic scholars” (ibid: 509). Granted, theideological intention and function of capitalism, mass-production and mass consumption, isbehind postmodern cultural commodity formation and distribution, and “we may be constantly69encouraged to define ourselves through commodities, but the absence of coordination in sucha process results in our being asked to define ourselves in quite different ways, therebyproducing anything but a uniform subjectivity (Collins 1989: 128). Many consumer-relatedproducts, such as groceiy shopping carts used by homeless people and chemistry glasswareused as bong-pipes by marijuana users, are used in ways not originally intended by theproducer. “The cultural producer merely creates raw materials (fragments and elements),leaving it open to consumers to recombine those elements in any way they wish” (Harvey1989: 51). It is around these recombinations in various ways and forms of consumer productsthat cultures arise to provide social significance for their members. The cultural analysesperformed by Hall, Jefferson, and Hebdige at the Birmingham Centre for the ContemporaryCultural Studies point to the importance and presence of resistance within popular and massculture, through, for example, the development of youth subcultures, to the dominance of thecentral cultural tradition. In many of their examples cultural members were found to be ableto take simple articles from the dominant culture, such as the paper clip, razor blade, and ironcross of the iconoclastic punk culture (Hebdige 1976), alter their meaning for their ownlocalized purposes and understanding, use them as signs and symbols of not only rebellion butprovokation, and, consequently, create social, thereby political, expression and commentary.Significance comes from the indeterminable, yet definite and ongoing, effect that the injectionof new meanings, interpretations, and understandings of consumer products expressed by thesubcultures has on individuals and by extension society as a whole.3.4(b Instability of Identity and SianificanceThe rejection of the significance of postmodern cultures has also been based of the70assumed instability of identity, and subsequent moral values associated with identity, and theapparent trivialization or disappearance of social and political concerns and ethics; a conditionwhich creates a theoretical problem within the realm of modem social philosophy andresearch (Taylor 1991:14-15). The “postmodem identity revolves around leisure, centred onlooks, images, and consumption,... and tends to be more unstable and subject to change”(Kellner 1992: 153) which causes modernists great alarm and anxiety as they believe that“there is something amoral or morally threatening about postmodem selves which are fluid,multiple, and subject to rapid change” (ibid: 156). In these cases, however, postmodemcontemporary cultures are being analyzed from modernistic mind-sets and, as a result, theyare not being properly understood. An inappropriate perspective or outlook is being broughtto the interpetation of these cultures. The “basic problem which pervades these and similarattempts to ground ethics in an account of man’s intrinsic or essential nature is our strongpostmodemist suspicion that there really is no such thing. We have an even greater suspicionthat there is no ahistorical essence that is both universally found and timelessly(metaphysically and biologically) fixed in human kind and yet is also determinate andsubstantial enough to generate or justify, by mere logical derivation or elaboration, a definiteethical theory” (Shusterman 1988: 339). Subsequently, “the seemingly fragmented, chaotic,non-representable nature of the postmodern presents new challenges to social theory, art andradical politics” (Kellner 1988: 259). From this conclusion, the significance of the newcultures that reflect a postmodem mood can also be found in the production of new ways ofexpression that provoke new ways of thinking about identities, morals, and social concerns,both in academic work and in everyday life.713.4(c Siinificance in the AestheticAs I proposed above, some contemporary youth cultures’ moral ideals can beunderstood using Taylor’s concept of authenticity within the context of postmodemity. Inorder to grasp this connection and interpret the social significance of the new cultures it isnecessary to, first, find a way to locate where in the cultural forms these moral ideals are.Modem cultures tend to locate and objectify their rationalized moral codes in the written formof language, such as in holy books, law books, rule books, and how-to books, which canbecome the matter of universal permanence. Because of their concrete and structured form,they often produce unquestionable metanarratives which can not only direct and counselmembers of the cultures from whence they came but also restrict and segragate. On the otherhand, postmodern cultures, because of a disbelief in such concretization, are not expected tobe so definite in the expression of their moral ideals. Consequently, expressions of the moralideal of authenticity and self-identity in postmodern cultures are found in the aesthetic.Aesthetical expression involved in creative and artistic works offers a suitable arena forrealizing authenticity in postmodernity because the processes and terms of artistic creation aresimilar to those of self-discovery and making ones own morality (Taylor 1991: 62-63) and theresultant discourses are cryptic and numerous enough so as to not simply supplant one set ofcultural metanarratives for another. “Aesthetic considerations are or should be crucial andultimately perhaps paramount in determining how we choose to lead or shape our lives andhow we assess what a good life is. It fleshes out Wittgenstein’s cryptic dictum that ‘ethicsand aesthetics are one” (Shusterman 1988: 337). That is, in cultures that are being proposedas being expressive of the moral ideal of authenticity and of the ethos of postmodernism we72will find the articulation of discourses in the aesthetic texts. From this locus, then, we caninterpret and understand the meaning of these personal and social expressions from which theoverall culture’s significance can be evaluated.3.4(dI The Social Si2nificance of the Moral Ideal of AuthenticityFrom the preceeding statements it seems that the significance of these contemporarycultures is found in their attachment to the moral ideal of authenticity, although the ongoingand dynamic process of self-discovery through cultural and lifestyle experimentation andchoice in an environment of mass production and consumption would not seem to encouragethe process of moral value generation. The stress on self-choice within these cultures wouldappear to imply a positive valuation or affirmation of just the act of choice alone; that allchoices are equal and worthy merely because they were chosen freely (Taylor 1991: 37).However, the importance of the ideal of self-choice found within authenticity entailssomething greater. For self-choice to be an important ideal, some choices must be moresignificant than others or it would not matter what the choice was. “The ideal of self-choicesupposes that there are other issues of significance beyond self-choice” (ibid: 39). There is,then, a variety of background horizons of important and significant moral and social issuesand demands for the individual who implicitly understands and perpetuates the ideal of selfchoice. For Taylor, authenticity is responsible individualism within society, it “is not theenemy of demands that emanate from beyond the self; it supposes such demands” (ibid: 41);“authenticity is a facet of modern individualism, and it is a feature of all forms ofindividualism that they don’t just emphasize the freedom of the individual but also proposemodels of society” (ibid: 44). The significance of cultures expressing the ideal of authenticity73is found in the meaning of the choices in identity and self-fulfilment are made over otherpossibilities and the consequences that these choices involve for the individual and theirsociety. From non-trivial and non-anthropocentric cultures of authenticity, some of the centralsignificant ideals or ethics that these choices confer are freedom and fairness, a universalright, for the individual to be who they want to be, to be different, and for the reciprocalsocial recognition, defended by an idea of justice, of equality amongst and between differentindividuals. Contemporary youth cultures incorporate the ‘facet of modern indvidualism’ intothe plurality of postmodern textual discourse and propose inexplicit models of society.3.4(e Finding the Social Significance of Contemporary CulturesIt is the proposed models of society, the frameworks of which are implicitly found inthe contemporary popular cultures, that provide the cultures’ social significance. However,because these postmodern ‘models’ are inexplicit, unclear, and nodictatorial the frameworks ofthese models are often very difficult to comprehend. But, judging by their popularity, thesecultures still do make sense and have meaning to somebody. These cultures have required thereader, in a process which demands the existence of some sort of understanding on thereader’s part prior to interaction, to interpret and attach meaning for themselves to the culturaltext. Readers are able to do this, because “pop culture provides images and figures (texts)which its audiences can identify with and emulate. It thus possesses important socializing andenculturing effects via its role models, gender models, and variety of subject positions whichvalorize certain forms of behaviour and style while denigrating and villanizing other types”(Keliner 1992: 150). In popular cultures the significant socializing effects of morally andideologically informed valorization and villanization occur because the images and discourses74present in the texts are also, initially, found in its members consciousness’ and/or identities.Subsequently, the discovery of significant social meaning within cultural images isrelated to, first of all, the recognition of the existence of similar concepts within the characterof the cultural producer and consumer themselves. To understand the social significance of apopular culture is to understand the cultural consumer and to understand the cultural producer.“The artist and intellectual must be understood in terms of their lifestyle which is sociallyrecognizable and locatable in the social sphere. They also have a special interest in: 1) thewider acceptance of their perceptions on life..., and 2) the proclamation of the superiority oftheir lifestyle manifest in their subcultures” (Featherstone 1992: 280). The act of taking onand presenting oneself in a certain aesthetic lifestyle can be understood as a personal andvisual display of certain ideological and philosophical beliefs and values, no matter howpolymorphous, held by the individual.The next problem posed naturally questions how a set of beliefs centered on theindividual could make a substantial impact on change at the social level. Aestheticpresentation of self locates discussion “primarily to what might be called the private ethicalrealm, the questions of how the individual should shape his life to fulfil himself as a person.But it can be very naturally extended to the public realm, to questions of what a good societyshould be” (Shusterman 1988: 337). Because postmoderism questions the validity of suchthings as universal truths and metanarratives, it should not be expected that postmoderncultures would explicitly or actively promote or supplant a certain lifestyle or aesthetic as ‘the’right one. What should, and does, occur is the presentation of an aesthetic, of another option,from which readers are to interpret and judge for themselves as to the validity and appeal, in75whole or in part, of its meaning. Shusterman concludes from Rorty that “(the good life) isquestionable.., because it is not definitely there to be discovered but instead open to be madeand shaped, and should therefore be shaped aesthetically”(ibid: 341). Visions of the goodsociety as a whole and the social significance of a contemporary postmodern culture’s moralideals can be found in the individual aesthetic representation; an “aesthetic [which] is neithera symbol of, means to, or surrogate for an ethic, but rather the constitutive substance of one”(ibid: 353). Therefore, “we should focus upon the actual cultural practices and changingpower balances of those groups engaged in the production, classification, circulation, andconsumption of postmodern goods” (Featherstone 1988: 200).CONCLUSIONThe critics of contemporary cultures have said that there are no morals in today’s self-centered youth, however, in response I have outlined above how, through a newunderstanding, a definite set of socially significant contemporary morals can be located. Ihave shown that contemporary youth cultures are to be seen as expressive of the moral idealof authenticity, an inarticulated ideal which focusses on a self-determined individualism andmorality based on socially recognized liberal freedoms while simultaneously being mindful ofits place within society. The expression of the elements of this moral ideal can be located inthe textual discourse of the cultures’ art and understood in the context of the postmodemdisbelief in metanarratives and a promotion of identity exploration. These cultures show theirsocial significance in the fact that they recognize various socially determined horizons ofsignificance (personal, moral, poltiical) which are then expressed and possibly promotedobscurly in the aesthetically derived identities and images of the cultural producers andconsumers. Changes in the popularity of one youth culture over or beside another areunderstood as indicative of a change in the attitude, moral or otherwise, of contemporaryyouth.7677CHAPTER 4NOT MERE TECHNIQUE: POSTMODERN SOCIOLOGICAL METHODOLOGYiNTRODUCTIONIn the natural sciences, such as Chemistry, Biology, and Physics, the tools andmethods used to measure their subjects/objects of interest are chosen by the physicalproperties belonging to those subjects and what is known and available in collecting the datarelated to those properties. After a number of repeated studies reach similar results, whiletaking ‘random error’ into consideration, research methods become unquestionable whenexamining objects and results are presented and seen to be objective, rational, and free frompersonal error, affection, or interest. The social sciences often claim that these conditions, byremaining purely objective and exercising proper and accurate methods of measurement toguarantee certainty, can also pertain to their areas of study. However, I believe that, becauseof the definite subjective nature of social study by the individual and the element of subjectrelationship with the object of concern, there has been and, possibly, should always bedisagreement and debate concerning choice of subject, methods, results, and truth-claims. Ifeel that the social researcher and their subject of study are often, if not always, inextricablyintertwined and differences in researcher personalities, philosophies, prejudices, andunderstandings can lead to numerous variations and choices in the specific object andcharacteristics examined, the approach taken, and how the results or conclusions are achievedand understood. For example, the components of a study on youth culture done by a Marxistinfluenced researcher in Berlin will probably not resemble that of a North American locatedresearcher who is interested in the concept of deviancy. Similarly, a study on how thepresented images and ideas of Barbie dolls affect the beliefs and behaviours of young female78children will be approached differently, if at all, by a middle-aged male who may have boughtone for his daughter and an early-twenties female who may never have owned one. Theseexamples are not to point out a condition of relativism and express the futility of trying to dosocial research that can be important to or understood by more than just the researcher, norare they to suggest that only members should be or are eligible to do research on their owncultures. The existence of shared social histories and understandings and the omnipresentpossibility of dialogue and communication between human beings and between text andreader allows for the realization of meaningful understanding beyond the individualresearcher. However, it should be recognized that social research is often directed bysubjective intentions, conscious and unconscious, and in cases where some philosophies maynot be as apparent as others these ‘biase& are often ignored as one of the factors affectingsocial and natural scientific research.Subsequently, in my study of contemporary youth culture, I have tried to avoid thismistake and error of misleading the reader and myself into believing that I have no extraneousinterest or affect on my object of study or results by practically and philosophicallyrecognizing my part in this social study. By so doing, I (1) remove the possibility andconcern of being accused of being too involved in the subject, which would therebyjeopardize the ‘truth’ of the results, and (2) provide a first-hand example of a social researchmethodology guided by a relatively ‘new’ theoretical and philosophical understanding. It ismy hope that in recognizing this situation and promoting this ‘method’ I have provided aglimpse of a heretofore unforseen dimension into the understanding of social subjects and theprocess of their study. It may also reveal some unconscious ethos which explains why certain79research philosophies and methods appeal and seem more appropriate to contemporary socialresearchers such as myself and how this affects the direction and form social study takes.I want to provide a methodology that does not detract from the theoretical ‘mood’outlined in the last chapter, therefore, this chapter, wherein I present and describe the samplepopulations and texts that have been examined and the procedures which were followed inexamining them, introduces a research philosophy with which I hope to explain my personalposition and approach on how I came to choose my subject, population, philosophy, andmethods. Initially, it may appear, based on the apparent disregard or disrespect for certain‘traditional’ scientific methods, that I am avoiding the need to perform and provide anysubstantial sociological study and results. This is not the case, because I have not foregoneintellectual explanation, rationality, and argumentation of my methods. It is only that Irecognize, with what I suspect is my own postmodem (un)consciousness or awareness, thehigh degree of subjectivity and interpretation involved in the understanding of something likeyouth culture and the possibility that ‘method does not exhaust or have a monopoly on truth’.I will avoid strictly objective, positivist, and statistical methods (which, I feel, tend to extractand discard the real essence and flavour of subjects such as culture leaving a pale account ofwhat really exists) and, instead, try to explain the new expressions, meanings, andunderstandings based on a more appropriate interpretive process in dialogue with the text.4.1 TRUTH IN METHOD?In this study I wanted to examine and present an analysis of the discourse provided bythe actual cultural texts created and produced by the members of a contemporary youth80culture. To gather ‘data’ for this research, it was my intention to collect a diverse range ofnarrative texts created by members of the culture and perform an interpretive analysis of theirdiscourses which I understand to be present in the textual content. The philosophyencompassing this entire study led me to ignore any attempt at formulating or using objectiveand positivistic methods and, instead, encouraged a discussion of the meanings andunderstandings that grow out of my dialogue with the text. The implied principles or criteriaof the philosophy, however, do provide a ‘method’, so to speak, by which theseunderstandings can be defended and justified for the purpose of validating this form of studyas good sociological inquiry.Though not a necessary requirement of the philosophy which I advance, in order toaccomplish a more colourful and dimensional reading I felt that by supplementing myinterpretation with member interpretation of their own discourse a superior and worthy resultcould be provided. By incorporating the ethnographic methods of participant observation andnon-formal interview, the conclusions or understandings reached during the discourse analysisportion would be cross-referenced for clarity and elaboration with the opinions, ideas andinterpretations of a small group of members from the culture. However, even though avariety of techniques and strategies gathered from ethnographic convention are outlined inorder to achieve an adequate and confident ethnographic study this endeavour was ommiteddue to a couple of decisions which I explain at the end of this chapter.4.1(aI The TextsThe data to be understood in this study consists of the individuals who have associatedthemselves with the ‘Grunge’ culture (as determined by the culture itself and mainstream81culture to a lesser degree) and the texts they create through the various means of aestheticexpression. Individuals and groups which seem to have some sort of affinity to the Grungestyle can now be found all over North America but for this study members and groupsparticularly located in three North American NorthWest coast cities, Vancouver, Victoria, andSeattle, have been chosen. The Seattle area was unavoidably chosen because it has beendeemed and commercially marketed to be the origin of the culture. Most of the bands(Soundgarden, Nirvana, Tad, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees) at the forefront of the undergroundyouth subculture that has become popularly known as Grunge originated in the Seattlevicinity, created a scene local to the area, and released many of their first recordings on theSeattle based Sub-Pop record label. Vancouver and Victoria, although without any popularlyacknowledged association with the Grunge culture, have dominant backgrounds in the punkrock culture and other ‘alternative’ underground scenes that could possibly be on the verge ofsignificantly contributing to the culture on a popular level.4.1(b A Philosophy in UnderstandingIn this study, the subject of interest and quite possibly the consciousness of theresearcher determined the philosophy of and the form that the theoretical and methodologicalframeworks of the investigation took. This does not mean, however, that this study and theseframeworks will be inherently are partisan towards the subject or entirely subjective andwhimsical. Because I am looking at the meaning of the concept of moral ideals as found inthe aesthetics of what I believe to be a postmodern cultural text and condition, it would beimmensely irresponsible to commence an examination with a modern, metaphysical, objective,and traditionally ‘scientific’ methodology for the purpose of arriving at an absolute or82objective meaning of truth within the culture. Consequently, the dominant literary, artistic,phenomenological, historical, and philosophical elements present in the culture make a theoryof interpretation seem more appropriate; that is, phenomenological hermeneutics necessarilydirects the methodological procedure for investigating and understanding postmodern culture.Vattimo, who has “given hermeneutics unquestionable currency among the longestablished Faculties of Aesthetics” (Carravetta 1988: 395), states that “hermeneutics is in theform in which, with the waning of the structuralist hegemony, a historicist exigency is onceagain demanding to be heard” (Vattimo 1988: 400). Taking into consideration thepostmodemist element which does not believe in an innate essence, the ‘weakening of Being’as Vattimo terms it, “the human person should now be able to articulate discourse withoutadhering to the grammar and demands of a ‘strong’ metaphysical tradition, that is, ametaphysic which insists on believing in ‘foundation’, in the ‘identity principle” (Carravetta1988: 395). This introduction of a ‘new’ contemporary philosophy recognizes that currentmodem methods of textual and discourse examination with their presumed exact, objective,and depersonalized procedures that attempt to find certain and fixed truth may not adequatelyexplain or understand social cultural phenomenon. What this allows, then, is for therecognition of the integral part that the researcher, the historically and socially locatedobserver, plays in the direction and in the results of the sociological endeavour; the dialogicalrelation between the ‘observer’ and the ‘observed’ becomes accounted for.Founded in Gadamer’s extensive formulation of interpretation philosophy, Truth andMethod (1960), “hermeneutic thinking emphasizes the fact that both observer and observedbelong together within a common horizon, underscoring truth as an event which, in the83dialogue between the two interlocutors, ‘realizes’ or ‘sets into play’... and modifies at the sametime this horizon” (Vattimo 1988: 402). In ‘playing’ the game of dialogue and interpretationthe researcher partakes in an activity that all humans do in the process of living in the socialworld. In order for the individual to ‘get by’ they must try to understand the meaning of thatwhich surrounds them and to do so they must interpret the meaning of things. Thisunderstanding is always achieved in relation to themselves, but instead of creating adichotomy of a dominant subject separate and imposing on a subordinate object, hermeneuticsrecognizes that both reader and text exist within a shared history of meaning andunderstanding. “Hermeneutic philosophy considers understanding not as subjective behaviourbut as a response to effective-history” (Weinsheimer 1991: 35), that is, understanding ispossible because both the subject and the object belong to a shared history which determineshow understanding will occur and what is understood. “Methodological approaches to bothnatural and human phenomenon are rooted in history; they accept certain historicalassumptions as to both what is to be studied and how it is to be approached. Understandingis therefore rooted in prejudice and the way in which we understand is thoroughly conditionedby the past” (Warnke 1987: 3). While the word ‘prejudice’ is often a warning sign forsociological discussion, here the term is to refer to the unavoidable prejudgments with whichall individuals approach any object for the purpose of understanding. These prejudgmentscome from the fact that each subject and object has its own social and personal history bothseparate from and shared with the other and when brought to a moment of interpretation havetheir affect on the resultant understanding. Through an arguably dialectical and ongoingprocess of interaction, agreement, and conflict between observed objects and the84understandings and prejudices of the observer, changed understandings and modifiedprejudices, socially and politically negative and positive though definitely not pre-determined,can occur. “Our understanding stems from the ways in which the event or work haspreviously been understood and is thus rooted in the growth of a historical and interpretivetradition” (ibid: 78). The process of understanding always involves interpretation,reinterpretation, and many epiphanous moments but the meaning that arises out of this alwaysinvolves the ‘fusion of historical horizons’ of both the interpreter and the interpreted object.In the situation of examining cultural text, where “works of art contain claims to truth” (ibid:73), meaning and understanding is achieved through an interactive process involving culturalstyle, expression, and discourse with researcher style, expression, and discourse.Consequently, in the case of this study and all other social study, hermeneutical philosophyallows for the responsible and open recognition of both the common and individualconsciousness (understandings and backgrounds) of the researcher and the culture and toacknowledge the subsequent change and creation in new understanding of both proceedinginteraction.Faring well for my responsibility as a reflective sociological researcher, this researchphilosophy allows for the upfront recognition of my close association and familiarity with thesubject culture prior to my desire to study it. While this situation could prove problematic forsupposedly objective social science, the postmodern method of hermeneutics recognizes,accepts, embraces, and finds valid this interconnectivity that undoubtably forms prejudicialopinions and positions. This is fortunate, since it is most likely that the ‘what’ which attractsme to the punk and Grunge cultures is also the ‘what’ that attracts me to the study of85Sociology. My interest in Grunge and youth cultures comes from my participation insociological schooling and my interest in sociological schooling comes from my participationin the punk and Grunge cultures. Therefore, because of this interconnectedness, the expected‘fusion of horizons’ or modification of common horizons from this current examination notonly concludes in a better understanding of the culture but also in a better understanding ofmyself - a reasonable case, I would think, for the importance of Sociology.4.1(c The Data for Discourse Analysis: Interpretation of TextsIn trying to identifr cultural discourses which may indicate cultural moral ideals,thereby social significance, I compiled and refamiliarized myself with a broad and detailedcollection of creative texts that had been produced in the cultural locations. These textslargely consist of magazines and entertainment papers (ie. Maximum Rock and Roll,Alternative Press, the Rocket) and their associated elements such as articles, editorials, letterspages, and photographs; recorded music (the actual sound value and its lyricalaccompaniment); artwork on album covers, t-shirts, and magazines; and fashion or personalappearance (clothing, hairstyles, etc.). I also included cultural leisure activities (such as skateand snow boarding, ‘gig’ or live show attendance, and hanging out) as a form of textualnarrative data which was gained through the means of participant observation prior to (re: mypersonal background outlined in Chapter 1) and during the study. The list of texts examinedin this study is found in Appendix A.The texts’ expressive elements were examined and interpreted, or read, for indicationsas to the nature of their meaning and if any common discourses were identifiable. Within theforms, I was watchful for elements which could be understood as expressive of discourses86reflective of the conditions and moral ideals of both the individuals who create the texts andthose who use or consume them. The search for and recognition of these discourses wasdirected by the proposition or understanding that this contemporary culture could be describedas expressive of the condition of postmodernity and that it’s belief ‘system’ is reflective of thecontemporary moral ideal of authenticity. In this action I tried to determine if theunderstanding or hypothesis was correct.Therefore, the research process involved an interpretation of the cultural texts to see ifthe meanings and understandings present resulted in discourses that express such postmoderncharacteristics as, for example, pastiche, parody, the effacement of the boundaries betweenpast and present and art and everyday life, a presentation of the unpresentable, and assault onnostalgia, threats to safe, middle-class life (Denzin 1988: 469), incredulity towardsmetanarratives (Lyotard 1984), and concern with ‘otherness’ and the pluralism of co-existingworlds (Harvey 1989: 47-48). In order to read and understand expressions of authenticity thetexts were examined for discourses expressing the inner-self and individualism, liberalism(self-determination), diversity and difference, issues of significance beyond self-choice andproposed notions of a good society, notions of rights, relationships in the intimate sphere, andsocial recognition (Taylor 1991: 26-53). These two sets of interpretive tools, concepts,perspectives, or understandings helped to determine if the culture is locatable under the termpostmodern and expressive of the contemporary moral ideal of authenticity.4.1(d A ‘Method’ for Understandin2 DiscourseAs I mentioned above, the methods for approaching an understanding of contemporarycultural discourse were not be achieved by mere objective technique; there is no claim to an87absoluteness that the rules and procedures of positivistic science make. Hermeneutics, orinterpretation theory, is, I feel, a more appropriate way to approach sociological study,because there is the recognition of the researcher’s own subjectivity incorporated into thefoundations of study itself. There is the argument from the positivistic traditions that thisphilosophical theory is open to whimsy and arbitrariness and cannot be considered serious orrespectable as it appears to remove the need to supply proof for conclusive interpretation.However, I concur with Madison who suggests that “phenomenological hermeneutics, asrepresented by (Gadamer), can provide for norms or criteria for assessing interpretations”(Madison 1988: 26). The formalization of these criteria lead to the development of ‘rules’ andprocedures that resemble method.Central and primary to the methodological endeavour of understanding throughinterpretation is the subjectivity possessed by an interpreter. Objecting to the validity oftrying to locate creative genius behind artistic works, claims of truth in the aesthetics of apiece for the subjective interpreter become the concern of Gadamerian hermeneutics (Warnke1987: 73). Connecting a text to their own circumstances, the historically and socially situatedindividual/interpreter finds truth in or understands an aesthetic text because of a subjectivitybased on their own point of view. In order to be responsible for these understandings, theinterpreter must “be able to respond, i.e., to be able to make an attempt at defending orjustifying one’s own words and deeds; which is to say, at providing arguments for them”(Madison 1988: 27). Tn the process of being able to persuasively argue or defend one’sstatements and give reasons for one’s interpretations and judgements it is necessary to “appealto certain principles, the ensemble of which constitute a set of criteria” (ibid: 27). From these88criteria the formation of a method as a “norm-governed way of doing something (indistinction from arbitrary, whimsical behaviour)” (ibid: 29) is possible. This form of method,which is more a general guide of principles than strictly applied rules, then becomes an aid inmaking good, not necessarily correct, judgements and can be used to “defend one’sjudgements or interpretation by arguing that they embody or conform to certain generallyaccepted criteria, norms, or principles” (ibid: 28).By grasping the validity of this definition and formation of method it is possible to seehow a responsible and reliable hermeneutical method can, in fact, be attained. Madisonexplains that in order for the hermeneutic researcher to be responsible they must justify andevaluate, not test, their interpretations through making good, rational judgments and appealingto certain appropriate methodological principles (ibid: 27-29). These principles, articulatedpractice raised to the level of theory, are: coherence, comprehensiveness, penetration,thoroughness, appropriateness, contextuality, agreement (in two forms), suggestiveness, andpotential (ibid: 29-30). In order to produce a better reading of a text and persuasive argumentto support it, these standards should be considered.The first of the methodological principles appropriate to phenomenologicalhermeneutics which Madison introduces is coherence. This is recognized, simply, as need forthe researcher to make a coherent interpretation of the author’s text and present it in a unifiedand non-contradictory manner. Even in the case where the work of interest is contradictorywithin itself, “the interpreter must then attempt to make coherent sense of thesecontradictions” (ibid: 29). Postmodern and modern cultures, for instance, are expected tocontain such contradictions and as a responsible social researcher I was able to respond to and89clarify my interpretations of these by explaining them in relation to the interpretiveframeworks which I introduced.Secondly, in order to provide a ‘good’ reading it is also necessary to provide acomprehensive reading of all the author’s works which relate to the issue of interest. “Ininterpreting an author’s thought, one must take account of his thought as a whole and notignore works of his which bear on the issue” (ibid: 29). To achieve this I have collected awide variety of texts by many individual artists and groups which allowed me to look at thecollective thoughts of each group or band as a whole and, also, at the collective thoughts ofthe culture as a whole. I determined that I had an adequate amount of data sources when Ibegan to recognize a fair amount of expressions reflecting similar discourses. The collectionof artistic texts plus published interviews with the artists provides and extensive range ofthought to analyze and interpret thereby creating a better reading of the culture.Good interpretations must also involve a substantial probing rather than a superficialscratching of the text’s most obvious signifying surfaces. This penetration should “[bring] outa guiding and underlying intention in the work” (ibid: 29), a raison d’etre or illuminatingintent, rather than re-presenting immediately evident artistic elements. I believe that Isatisfied this criteria, because in searching for an underlying moral ideal in the youth culture Ibypass all the popular media accounts which seem to focus on superficial qualities usingtypical mainstream perspectives.To achieve the thoroughness required of a hermeneutical understanding of a text “agood interpretation must attempt to answer or deal with all the questions it poses to theinterpreted text, or which the text poses to one’s understanding of it” (ibid: 29). While I think90it is almost impossible to answer all the questions posed by an artistic text due to the almostinfinite nature of art, thoroughness in relation to a concentrated area of interest such as valuesor moral ideals is possible. I feel that almost all youth cultures implicitly pose questionsabout ideals and from being thorough enough new ideas and understandings relating to theimmediate preoccupation with youth cultural ideals, ones which may not have beenimmediately apparent, can be revealed and addressed.In order for an interpretation to render a good and valid reading of a text it must directappropriate questions to the text. That is, instead of indiscriminately applying previouslyprepared and separately conceptualized questions to a text (as in most studies using anobjective and positivistic method) “the questions the interpretation deals with must be oneswhich the text itself raises” (ibid: 30). There is no point in creating questions that the textdoes not address or raise because the response and conclusions will only be a fabrication ofthe researcher’s own interest. Though I may only be able to defend myself with an semiconscious belief, I feel that one of the central, though often obscure, concerns of youth culturehas been that of values and moral ideals. My investigation into the values of contemporaryyouth cultures and how these values are expressed in their texts is, then, completelyappropriate.In a similar vein, “an author’s work must not be read out of context, i.e., without dueregard to its historical and cultural context” (ibid: 30). This criteria is particularly realized inthis study because by proposing that the context or social condition of postmodernism doesexist and that contemporary youth cultures like Grunge should be understood within thiscontext is, I believe, a progressive step in doing better readings of youth cultures. Placing the91cultural texts within a context of certain circumstances, conditions, and ideas related topostmodernism allows for a more appropriate reading of the culture.The first principle of agreement in the set of the criteria states that “an interpretationmust agree with what the author actually says, that is, one must not, or normally not, say thatthe ‘real’ meaning of what an author says is something quite other than what he actually doesand intends to say” (ibid:30). This does not mean that a reader should not try to examine forunderlying and obscure meanings of a text, because this form of reading can produce someunique, original, and personal understandings, only that being overly suspicious of an author’swork can lead to readings completely remote from the author’s intention. This problem isavoided because the postmodem consciousness or understanding, which dominates this study,does not attempt to attach a grand narrative meaning to a text in such a way or say that anauthor’s meaning was really and definitely something else other than what the text presents.The second agreement principle relates to consensus with previous readings of anauthor’s work. “A given interpretation should normally be in agreement with the traditionaland accredited interpretations of an author. This principle must not be blindly adhered to,however, for good interpretation will be precisely one which breaks with traditional readings,in that it opens up new perspectives on the work. (In this case the interpretation must stilltake account of previous interpretations, by showing how they are deficient)” (ibid: 30). Inthe process of doing research for this study, I began by examining and reviewing variousinterpretive understandings of the cultural texts found within better informed magazines andbooks such as Alternative Press magazine and Gina Arnold’s book Route 666: The Road toNirvana. Through this I have been able to get a general idea of how others read the same92material and what meanings and ideals are present for them. By responding in the study toreadings similar to mine, readings which I hadn’t seen before and readings that I disagree witha better interpretation is achieved.The value of a good reading and understanding is also found in its suggestiveness andoriginality. Found in the exponentially productive process of using the imagination in socialscientific research, the ability to ‘stimulate and further research and interpretation’ becomes thegoal for all hermeneutical endeavour. In trying to achieve my research goal of illuminating orrevealing the misunderstood moral ideals of a popular contemporary youth culture through theapplication of certain understandings of postmodernism, authenticity, and phenomenologicalhermeneutics, I believe new and productive sociological ideas, questions, and methods havebeen created.The final criteria, the principle of potential, involves the future learning possibilitiesgenerated by the research results and the research endeavour itself. “A given interpretationcan be judged to be ‘true’ if, in addition to meeting the above requirements, it (like a goodmetaphor or model) is capable of being extended and if in the process the implications itcontains unfold themselves harmoniously” (ibid: 30). This ‘ultimate validation of a reading’ isfound in its ability to stand up in further repeat readings of the same text and other similarones. It is my hope that my combination of theories, methods, and results from this study canbe later applied to other cultural studies and, more specifically, other contemporary youthcultures so that a wider range of social phenomenon can be better understood.By recognizing and trying to fulfil as many of these criteria as possible, without tryingto restrict oneself, the phenomenological hermeneutic inspired researcher is able to provide a93sound methodology that does not sacrifice their disbelief in objectivity and objective methods,yet, can provide an adequate, sufficient, and defendable argument for their interpretations.This method, as opposed to the logical and supposed error-free reasoning of positivisticscientific method, is directed by the practice of practical reasoning and is derived as muchfrom the practice of working out an interpretation as it is from evaluating and defendingthem. Both cases “involve methodological reasoning although in neither case is methodreducible to mere technique”(ibid: 33). In response to positivistic based critics (ones thatrequire set guidelines to direct and rationalize social study), the practice of “phenomenologicalhermeneutics... can allow for a logic of argumentation in the light of which rational decisionscan be made. Interpretation should be viewed as a mode of practical reasoning and ofpersuasive argumentation. The model for interpretation should, therefore, be looked for in thetheory of argumentation and not in what is called the logic of (scientific) explanation” (ibid:35). By appealing to the use of rhetoric the hermeneutic researcher, while not being able toabsolutely prove or be certain of anything, is able to provide valid reasons for regarding someunderstandings as evidently better than others.Madison also indicates that for an interpretation to be taken as ‘truth’ it need not beeternally and universally valid only that it be generally accepted by those in argument. It isnot reasonable to expect an interpretation to be static because the understanding of a text, andthe text itself, is perpetually in a state of becoming. It is this property of text, in all its forms,that proves problematic for objective science which tries to fix understanding eternally andexposes its relative uselessness in social research. This is the case even more so whenconsidering postmodem texts which are characteristically fluid in their meaning. The94principles above reveal their effectiveness by helping to evaluate and defend interpretations,arbitrate between conflicting interpretations at a point in time, and allow for flexibility andchange. By appealing to or fulfilling more of these criteria, an interpreter is able to‘methodically’ show the ‘truth’ or correctness of their interpretation. “To argue, for instance,that interpretation 2 is more coherent, more comprehensive, and so on, than interpretation 1 isample and sufficient reason for deciding to accept it and to take it as ‘true”(ibid: 33) until, ofcourse, someone presents a better argument. Arbitrariness is not really a factor in this processbecause “while the meaning of the text cannot be equated with ‘what the author meant’, theinterpreter cannot, for all that, simply project his or her own meaning onto the text”(ibid: 34).A text provides certain creatively arranged discourses which demand that the interpretercreatively but specifically respond to them. The interpreter must try to understand textualmeaning by using a combination of their own resources and powers such as common sense,shared knowledge (fore-conceptions, pre-judgements), cognitive reflexivity, unconsciousfeeling, and imagination. Subsequently, practical reasoning and argumentation provide thebasis for recognizing the interpretation as a ‘good’ and ‘true’ one.IMPORTANT NOTEUpon further reflection, I realized and found that what I really wanted to do was tofocus on and interpret the expressions of Kurt Cobain and his band Nirvana. It was theirmusic in 1988 that completely pulled me to what is now known as Grunge and more andmore Cobain’s music and words began to mean so much to me on so many levels and for somany reasons. I had interviewed the band in 1989 but it ended in disappointment so,therefore, I directed all my energy into contacting them. I wrote to the independent Seattle95record label Sub-Pop but the bastards never wrote me back. I tried to contact Cobain throughhis mainstream corporate record label, MCA, but it involved sending a letter to their officehere in Vancouver which they would send to the head-office in Toronto who would thendecide wether or not to send it to Geffen records in the States who would finally give therequest to his agents. I said “Forget it”. Just as I was trying to contact Cobain through otherchannels he killed himself. I became despondent and after a time of numbness and dumbnessall I could do is go to Seattle, drive around the city for half a day just to see where he offedhimself, get gas, and come home. I thought that my research was over. I didn’t want tofinish it. However, I re-read Gina Arnold’s book about punk rock and Nirvana and in it herstatement to the effect that to interview musicians like Nirvana was kind of pointless sincethey were fairly inarticulate about their music and artistic intuitiveness and resistant toexplaining themselves (Arnold 1993: 144) reached out to me. This statement said that oneshould interpret for themseif the meaning of Grunge. From this I decided that maybe I didn’thave to interview them or conduct a participant observation to get a good interpretiveunderstanding of the culture. So I didn’t do one. I did decide, though, to leave sections4.1(e) and 4.1(f) on participant observation sample and method, which became unproductivefor my specific case, in the thesis so that the ideas and methods therein could be used in thefuture as suggestions for similar cultural study. Upon the chance that I get to continue thisresearch, I would like to implement this portion of the methodology and actually interviewand participate with the cultural producers and get their interpretations on my interpretations.964.1(eI The Data for Participant ObservationThe purpose of the participant observation portion of the study is to get cultural members’input in order to judge how good, not necessarily correct, my interpretations of the texts wereand to add detail, depth, and colour to them. Generally, the members chosen are to beprominent producers and suppliers of popular cultural text, symbolic specialists, because: (1)their aesthetic representations are the immediate texts of interest, (2) they play a large role inwhat is available for the members who, though still participating in the production ofsignification and meaning in their own way (Harvey 1989: 51), are largely consumers, and (3)they are usually quite articulate in communicating their meanings and understandings inrelation to their art and lifestyles. I tried to make contact with members through personalconnections, contacting bands directly and indirectly through their record labels and/ormanagers, and request some of their time and attention but, as I explained above, this attemptfailed. Even so, because academic study often implies objectification and misrepresentation,members, at first, might be slightly apprehensive of or opposed to having some academicperform what could appear to be a critical and objective analyzation of their lives. But, Ibelieve they would have been be genuinely interested in and warm to the fact that theirculture was found to be the subject of intellectual and social interest and that a relativelyinformed and aware person was doing the research.Using a preparatory set of informal guideline questions, I would have questioned themembers on their own work and the work of other producers and consumers relating to theinterpretations and understandings I reached based on the discourse analysis portion of thestudy. After getting comfortable with the members in casual conversation, I would have97directed them to my readings of authenticity and postmodemism in their works withoutactually using or defining the terms. When discussing the artists’ texts and their discourses,using ordinary language, suggestions would have been made as to how I have interpretedthem and how I understand them. I foresaw the introduction of my interpretation, being anoriginal text in its own right, into the cognizance of the original artists as an impetus fordiscussion to go on its own accord without the guide of many prepared questions. Thevirtually undirected discussion involving the combination of artist’s text and reader’sinterpretation would, I believe, have allowed for the dynamic discovery and realization ofunforseen and/or mistaken interpretation.4.1(f) A ‘Method’ for Participant ObservationBy incorporating participant observation into a hermeneutic study of cultural text, ofwhich researcher interpretation usually contributes a large part, a new wrinkle is introducedinto this process of understanding. Instead of interpreting just textual discourse, theresearcher now interprets and tries to understand the meaning of actual verbal discourserelated to initial interpretation of the textual discourse. As the recognition of the dialogiccondition between text and reader indicates a form of progressive dynamism in the process ofunderstanding, the process of interview itself is also in a constant dynamic state. Enteringinto a verbal dialogue with a text’s producers adds another dimension to the creative workand, in recognition of the hermeneutical theory, adhering to a battery of prepared questionscan create a restrictive force on the course of a probing discussion the direction of whichcannot be determined prior to the actual interlocutive encounter. However, like the methodsused for textual discourse analysis, the methods used to gather data from participant98observation and interview are neither created and performed in a arbitrary and whimsicalmanner nor or they completely and objectively predetermined technique. The method forunderstanding the interpretations that arise from this form of discourse is exactly the same asthat outlined in section 4.1(d) above. Interpretations of what members do and say in relationto discussions of their art and the researcher’s original interpretations are evaluated by thesame criteria as the original interpretations. In addition, though, an interactive ethnographicalapproach, or method, must also give good reasons and arguments to justify and evaluate theapproach taken from which the interpretations and eventual conclusions are made.In order to maintain this study’s validity as well as avoid various pitfalls in regards tothe participant observation portion of the study, I will recognize and try to incorporateStoddart’s strategies or criteria for performing ‘adequate ethnography’ (Stoddart 1991). Heexplains that “in the most general of terms, those ethnographies are received as adequate1. that display the domain of investigation as it exists independently of the dimensionadded to it by the ethnographer’s presence as an investigator;2. that display the features of a domain as received by its participants (i.e., that we donot have a version of ethnocentrism as a property);3. that display the features of a domain as they exist independently of the techniquesemployed to assemble them (i.e., that do not have methodogenesis as aproperty); and4. if their accomplishment of 1 through 3 is founded in data gathered fromparticipants knowledgeable in the ways of their domain (i.e., if 1 through 3 are notbased on the productions of unentitled informants)”(ibid: 3).99From these recommendations it is possible to reduce the abstract awareness of theethnographers position in social study to something a little more concrete: ‘rules’. “Theserules - descriptive of what might be called the good ethnographer’s work - can be codified asfollows:1. The good ethnographer regards his or her own presence in the domain aspotentially tainting of its natural state.2. The good ethnographer seeks not to enforce an organizing schema uponencountered data but to surface from that data a schema local to the domain ofinvestigation.3. The good ethnographer is attentive to the possibility that techniques of gatheringdata may create the data gathered.4. For the good ethnographer, any domain has as a feature the differential distributionof competence among its members” (ibid: 3).Consequently, the interaction with the members is to be advised by being cognizant of theconcerns recognized in the criteria relating to the problems of presence, ethnocentrism,methodogenesis, and informant competence (ibid: 4-11).The problem of presence is defined as being the ‘tainting dimension’ or alien elementthat is contributed to the domain of investigation simply by the ethnographer being present init. This problem, which also troubles the natural sciences, questions wether the observed ormeasured object’s traits are altered from what they would normally be unobserved. To reducethe problem of presence (to disattend myself from affecting the domain) as much as possiblein my study, it is my intention to apply the strategies of:100(1) the erosion of visibility by display of no symbolic detachment: this is achieved byan open, though not gratuitous, display of acceptance of modes of dress, taste inmusic, argot used, knowledge and taste in cultural texts with which I hope to ‘fit’ into the cultural domain;(2) the erosion of visibility by display of symbolic attachment: in addition to fittingmyself in by adhering to the above strategy, participating as much as possible inordinary events such as hanging out, going to gigs, and creating my own textsshould depict an active display of attachment to the domain;(3) the erosion of visibility by personalizing the ethnographer-informant relationship:in the course of implementing the above two strategies, I should be able to createsuch a personal rapport with my informants that would remove any of theirpossible concerns with the research aspect of our relationship; and(4) misrepresentation (masking real research interests): so as to not create any over-analysis of members’ works by informants and to avoid the outright refusal on thepart of the member to participate in any sort of analysis (two situations whichmight distort or alter true understandings of cultural influences, meanings, andvalues) general discussions, as opposed to specific and direct, of the culture andtextual meanings, as seen in any interview with a musician, will be used as themeans for gathering data.I decided that the techniques of erosion of visibility by time and misrepresentation (maskingidentity as ethnographer) were not appropriate for this study. The former because of 1) timeconstraints, 2) that the participant observation portion is only a check on the textual analysis,101and 3) I believed that the other four strategies would reduce the amount of time needed to getadequate responses. The latter because 1) that form of ‘deceit’ or misrepresentation would notallow for the form and depth of interview which I expect 2) is not really necessary in thispopularly accessible domain.To control for ethnocentrism, a common result of more positivistic surveys, Stoddart’ssuggested strategies of using (1) the Native as research assistant (the member test of validity)and (2) the Native as talent judge seem suitable. Even though I basically consider myself amember of the domain (both as a member of the specific youth culture and more generally asa contemporary young person), as a academically occasioned interpreter there is thepossibility of bringing concerns not native, thereby perhaps irrelevant, to the domain. Afterthe first portion of the study, in which the culture’s textual discourses are interpreted in orderto understand their meaning, the process of informal interviewing and participant observationsupplies the basis for satisfying these two strategies. Worked into the general conversation orinterview, judgement and comments on my previous research conclusions is sought from themembers in order to gauge the adequacy of my interpretations. In consideration of theircomments and my own secondary interpretations based on these comments the textualdiscourses are re-examined from which final understandings and conclusions can be made.To reduce the effects of methodogenesis, the process in which the researcher’sprocedures create rather than discover fact in a domain, I will minimally use the strategies of(1) neutralizing and (2) invisibilizing my techniques and mainly rely on (3) the use ofredundant demonstrations. In order to effectively neutralize the possible spuriousness of myinquiry it is necessary to try to consciously make the effort to draw statements from the102members on the topic of interest of moral ideals as reflected in their work without having touse direct comments or questions and gather from their statements my own interpretations.However, while general questions are usually necessary to initiate discussion, the topic ofinterest in my case should have been of enough importance to members that enough data andmaterial would have been generated and this concern would be minimally problematic. Theinvisibilization of techniques was not expected as a possible strategy for my study except forthose periods during participant observation when I may have had the good fortune tooverhear members make pertinent statements that I can incorporate into the research. In bothsegments of the research portion of this study I will significantly, almost to the point ofcompletely, use redundancy to support the ‘truth’ of my results. In the textual analysissegment this method helps to illustrate the profusion or enormity of certain qualities andmeanings within the culture. Constant, yet different and separate, textual expressions ofsimilar elements is believed to be evidence of shared and qualitative ‘fact’ or meaning.During the interview portion of the study multiple and consistent comments indicatingagreement by the members with my interpretations and understandings will be considered tobe a sufficient indication of an adequately performed reading.My choice of proposed informants, I believe, significantly reduces the effect ofinformant incompetence or inappropriateness. It is the discourses that these members havecreated which form a large part of the foundation of the youth culture as it moves from beingthe punk subculture to the popular Grunge culture and these individuals are more likely toprovide ‘knowledge foundational to membership’ than anyone else. In my experience I havefound that individuals who choose to associate themselves with a culture which can be103characterized as being subcultural or countercultural are usually more reflective, vocal, andaware of their decisions and reasons for doing so than a person who is more mainstream. Byacquiring and/or experiencing ‘artifact& of the culture a consuming individual is able toinform and familiarize themselves with ideas and images which are part of that culture. Fromthis, upon an act of reflection, interpretation and understanding, they, too, are able tosubsequently partake, as a member, in the process of cultural discourse production. However,because of the unique position that original and prominent scene members have they benefitfrom the possession of a more informed and whole awareness of their own culture. Thesewidely influential members are able to create their own popularly recognized text that formsthe culture and also, because of their celebrated position, receive various forms of interpretivefeedback from their audience. Therefore, while it is the case that ordinary members in beingattracted to, consuming, and using text for their own conscious and unconscious purposes alsocreate discourse in their own way, the popular creative members are, generally, more likely tobe acute observers of their own culture. It is for the reason that my informants need to knowenough and are well informed enough about their culture that they are chosen.A CONCLUSIONARY ASIDEI must mention that in taking these criteria into consideration it is not the case that Isimply searched for a set of working rules for which to make my approach seem more‘academic and for it to fit within a previously founded tradition. It is the case that, in theirconcretizing of what I take to be common sense in this form of study, there is an appeal to acertain level of my consciousness and/or what I hold as knowledge. It is the same level of104consciousness, I feel, that makes the concepts of postmodernism, authenticity, andhermeneutics more appealing and appropriate to the study of contemporary culture. Forexample, rule 2 from Stoddart’s rules (the good ethnographer seeks not to enforce anorganizing schema upon encountered data but to surface from that data a schema local to thedomain of investigation) reflects, I believe, the postmodem characteristic of disbelief inuniversalisms; for a researcher to impose a predetermined set of research values and methodson another subject and to make the data ‘fit’ into this schema is inherently inaccurate andprobably wrong. This is an example of what I have indicated above to be the socialresearcher’s part in actual study and the connection between the researcher’s consciousnessand their choice and approach to subject study.105CHAPTER 5 ALiVE & DIRTY: WHAT I FOUND IN THE GRUNGE“We live in a world in which the authority of previous guides has apparentlycrumbled” (Chambers 1990: 81)If I had based this paper on a typical academic template, this chapter would reveal thetrue meaning of Grunge and what values, if any, are consequently held by youth who identifythemselves with the culture. Further, I would be able to conclude as to whether or not thisculture is definitely socially significant. However, by ‘travelling’ the route I have taken, inexperiencing, researching, and understanding not only the culture itself but the theories,methodologies, and philosophies which I feel are appropriate to this research, I have been ledto believe that attempting and producing such a result would be neither adequate norauthentic. I could ‘hit all the marks’, provide some statistics, and explain how the Grungeculture does or does not consistently display images of postmodemism and authenticitythrough the organized presentation of some excerpts and examples from the texts. Thefollowing summation would probably be presented as a method, as a ‘how to’ field guidesimilar to those books concerned with birds and plants, for older generations and members ofother cultures intent on ‘spotting’ and classifying contemporary youth. But, as the content andspirit of the previous chapters should explain, to do so would be contrary to the ‘mood’ or‘ethos’ advanced by myself up to this point. Phenomenological hermeneutics advises that I letthe natural and intuitive interaction between myself and the text direct the course of myinterpretation and the way it is presented not try to force some preconceived method ordirection onto it.Hence, I approached the actual analysis portion of this study with dread becausewithout recourse to prior studies with a similar combination of philosophy, theory, and106method as mine I had no idea as to how to properly go about collecting and analyzing theappropriate textual discourse or make any enlightening conclusions. My first knee-jerkreaction, based on years of under-graduate instruction, was to simply take the procedures of apreviously established hermeneutical study and carry them over to my own. However, Irealized, that if I was to create or exemplify anything new in the way of approachingsociological study, as was my desire, and to do justice to the culture which I personallyidentify with then I could not conscientiously do this. All I would be doing is systemizingthe practice of interpretation and understanding and allowing for the possibility that theessential ‘flavour’ of this specific culture could be eliminated. Eventually, I decided that sincethis study is directed towards examining a previously unexamined culture it is essential tocreate and encourage my own unique decisions and procedures while still being aware of theform that hermeneutical studies take in general. I allowed myself to take that precariousplunge and go with intuition and my own style.Consequently, the textual result below comes to resemble, in a sense, something of awork of art in itself. The ideas and words of this chapter represent and demonstrate thecircular hermeneutical process of an interpreter entering into a discourse with a text (theculture), incorporating that text with their own discourse or history and, sequentially,producing a new, synthesized text (personal identity and in this case a research paper) that ismade available for others to enter into a dialogue with and for the interpreter to reinterpret.The hermeneutic interpretation here sifts through various pieces of the culture, drawing forthimages and discourses which seem to reflect and let me understand the perspectives that Ibelieve to be appropriate and the truth-claims which I feel are significant. The process of107“hermeneutics involves mediation or, in other words, a capacity to see the significance of atruth-claim for our own situation°(Warnke: 104). However, as I also possess a history ofacademic sociology, I should be able to create a text here, using my knowledge of what anacceptable research paper requires, that also allows those readers who are not members of theculture to understand the text. Therefore, the personalized hermeneutical analysis below ofthe Grunge culture extends and expands the dialogue and understanding around thecontemporary youth culture for both myself as well as the uninformed reader and presentsitself as one possible means that sense can be made of the culture.5.1 INTERPRETIVE ANALYSIS OF THE GRUNGE CULTUREInterpretation of the Grunge culture in this chapter is presented in three instances andperspective ‘systems’. The first is a literary, biographical style rendering of my, theresearcher’s, own encounter with the culture and how meaning and understanding of a culturaldiscourse was/is created at a personal and primary level. This first order of interpretationmay appear as only a simple retelling of a story, however, within its narrative text is foundthe expression of how and why certain cultural textual discourse and significant featuresactually had meaning for an individual member. The second, more academic instance ofinterpretation is achieved within the framework of my own understanding of postmodernismas presented in the previous chapters. Awareness of this form of understanding allows for acertain mode of reflexivity and discursiveness not normally chosen by members ofcontemporary cultures who would typically not proceed past the first instance ofinterpretation. It is at this second level that the significant features and discourses of the108cultural text become the interpretive statement and gain meaning for sociology. The finalinstance, in turn, interprets the identified discourses and meanings from the two previousinterpretations from the perspective of the moral ideal of authenticity. This shift to a third‘level’ is done in order to locate meaning in the discourses in the form of cultural values andsocial significance and provide a further dimension to the understanding of contemporaryyouth culture within society. It is this level that incorporates the discourses of a postmodernand authentic (sub)culture with the concerns of morals, values, and ideals found in the largermainstream modem society.5.1(a) Punk Rock Saved Mv Life: Interpretation in the First PersonNote: I begin writing this portion in a weird state of mind, because today (April 8, 1994) itwas discovered that Kurt Cobain, songwriter/singer/guitarist of Nirvana, hasapparently killed himself with a shotgun in his home in Seattle. I am depressed and ina daze. There will be no more Teen Spirit’s. The title of this section was chosenwithout thought of what happened today and in re-reading it seems ironic and tragic.My mind is with the other members of Nirvana who no doubt will be destroyed bythis event. I also grieve for the loss of future creative possibilities that couldpotentially have been made, yet will be forever lost. Kurt would not want people tomake him into some sort of worshipped idol, though it will be done in the media, soI hope to go on.The difference between cultures often associated with social division and stratificationand those associated with youth is that the former are usually ascribed while the latter are109usually chosen. How one teenager finds meaning in a culture and chooses to associatethemselves with it and another does not is, as should be apparent from discussions ofpostmodemism, never determinable nor obvious. Nevertheless, any individual, reflecting ontheir own experience, should be able to locate and present at least some of the primaryreasons, images, and meanings associated with how a culture is able to reflect their mood andcomes to signify some sort of claims to truth for them. Reference to a perspective orinterpretive system is not done in this section because what I purport to do is relate or createa narrative based on my own experience within the punk and Grunge culture and how theirexpressions and meanings came to have significance for myself (in effect, I was unknowinglyperforming cultural ethnographic research for a study that was nonexistent at the time). Inthis section I provide a text for the reader of this paper to independently interpret forthemselves using their own perspectives and understandings and in the following sections Iprovide my own interpretation based on the perspectives outlined in the two previouschapters.My path to Grunge is found in the progression of the new music of the 80’s. As weremany of the future punks, I was somewhat of an outcast or misfit and virtual loner because,in my case, of my small stature and bespectacled appearance. Larger kids tend to constantlypick on the small and appearance impaired (read: geeky). Living in a small town in theInterior of British Columbia, where opinions (adult and youth) of what passes for proper style,culture, and knowledge are fairly narrow and oppressive, can generate an inner anger built onthe frustration of dealing with ignorance and suppression and forge the desire to seek out an110outlet for mental resistance and rebellion. From a position of youth, cultural change is oftenthe only response available. Within my group of high-school peers I noticed that a smallgroup of apparently intelligent and congenial individuals began to show the external signs ofwhat I considered individual and resistant behaviour. With a display of bizarre haircuts,clothing, antics, and music these kids were able to introduce new ideas and stylistic changeinto their local environment, thereby provoking mental and social reaction. Consequently, Ibecame attracted to their New Wave music, such as that by Men Without Hats, ThomasDolby, and New Order, because of their modern pop tunes, weird beats, introspective moods,and electronically produced aural sound (e)scapes (which helped with the boredom of doingmy paper route). These tunes were also diametrically opposed to my brother’s preferredmusical choice, Led Zeppelin, whom I considered dated, old, and the favourite band of myheadbanging tormentors at school. As most youth cultures have done, a part of what NewWave offered me was an outlet and environment for personal differentiation, creation,resistance, and individualization through the use of easily attained consumer goods, leisureactivities, and appearance alterations.New Wave may have been the initiator of cultural resistance in a small town, yet itsability to provide the intellectual, emotional, and physical stimulation I required began tofade. With the advent of rock videos in the mid-80’s the New Wave bands became popularlyoriented pop groups who seemed to place fashion, pouting, and other insubstantive criteriaabove textual content. The superficial Madonna appeared New Wave in her torn lingerie andfluorescent aerobic wear. Arising from the group of New Wavers at my school an evensmaller group began to listen to and take upon themselves the cultural aspects of Punk rock.111At first I was surprised by the degree to which they went in separating themselves from theother cultures present in the school. Crew cuts was one thing amongst mid-length hair butmohawks and skinheads was quite another. Needless to say, the football team took greatpleasure in beating up the obvious deviants in the stadium parking lot after a game.However, the challenge, thrill, and appeal of being voluntarily different in the face of extremesocial pressure was inspiring. Experimenting with and being able to surpass the boundaryfrom being one of the conforming crowd to what I believed to be an instigator of thought andchange was a ‘rush’ experience. The goal wasn’t just to be different or nonconformist but todemonstrate and present that difference was possible and prevalent in society.More importantly, Punk rock also displayed to me a difference in a state of mind andpresented certain possibilities not offered in the corporate dominated world of other youthcultures in the 80’s. This culture was not necessarily caused by the cruelty of alienation fromthe ‘cool’ teenage cliques, but a desire to be part of something else, something different. Bybelonging to this culture I felt like I was part of a scene, a football team for outcasts,pioneering ‘creative danger’ and self-discovery in the form of art. Punk allowed people, suchas myself, who may not have been formally trained in music or art to genuinely expressthemselves to the best of their ability. Anyone could scratch out a drawing or learn tohammer out a power chord on a cheap electric guitar and not have to be worried about criticalanalysis based on talent. Within weeks of associating myself with the small scene I had adrawing of mine printed on the front cover of a ‘zine which contained pictures, articles,poems, and ideas of some of the local kids. This ‘zine, ten pages of photocopied paper foldedin half, was the result of one of the local kids motivating himself and offering an112unconditional outlet for anyone else inspired to also contribute. It contained the unadulteratedand often threatening expression of anger, fear, frustration, and humour towards eveiythingfrom nuclear war (e.g. a drawing of President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister BrianMuirooney seen in a compromising position with nuclear warheads taking the place of certainanatomical organs to indicate the close relationship between and positions of the twocountries), racism, oppression, hypocrisy, violence, death, terrorism (corporate and political),sexism, local city councillors who had nothing better to do than tly to have skateboard rampstorn down, to how to stop water from splashing up out of the toilet when using the facilities.Within these pages were the presentation of threatening and un-safe thoughts that I would nothave earlier dared to express within my family, school, or neighbourhood.As has been stated in an earlier chapter, music is central to the Punk culture and it isthrough this creative form that I, as most other punks, became increasingly involved. My firstlisten to Punk was not entirely positive. I had traded my army surplus jacket for a copy ofthe Dead Kennedies’ 1982 release Plastic Surgery Disasters and after being use to the high-tech studio sounds of the New Wave bands was not ready for the aural assault. With therampaging guitars and thundering beat all I remember is what seemed to be a wall ofturbulent noise and that it upset my mother. However, upon further listening the beat of themusic began to energize me physically and the lyrics intensified me mentally. The brutalhonesty, biting sarcasm, and cynical criticism found in such songs as Government Flu,Terminal Preppie, and Winnebago Warrior cleverly and shamelessly made perfect sense andgave a loud voice to the tightly wound irritation I was increasingly feeling. Self-servingpoliticians and their military, self-indulgent prepatory school students with career oriented113single-mindedness, and the doddering middle-class with their souvenir consuming simplemindedness all become prey to the skewering Punk song. I could not resist the opportunity tobe creative, nasty, and obnoxious in the denouncing of what I considered wrong or idiotic.The anti-corporation/industry, anti-parent, anti-tradition approach found in the do-it-yourself attitude (“Special thanks to... those of you who inspire us by getting off your ass andcreating something of your own” - a quote from back cover of a Dead Kennedies album) wasrevealed to me one day in listening to a song on a beat up cassette tape. The band wasEntirely Distorted from Edmonton and they had sent a tape to a friend of mine. I put on theWalkman headphones and hearing it for the first time made a negative comment to the effectthat it sounded like it had been recorded in some guy’s basement and that it was pretty rough.I was informed that that was the whole point. I came to realize that music, or art and ideas ingeneral, should be made and recorded however possible by ‘amateurs’ and then spread aroundby whatever means to be enjoyed by many which in the same process creates a wider, yettighter, punk community.Later on that year I became involved in helping organize and set-up gigs for manyindependent and underground bands. I met and hung-out with members of bands whosemusic I listened to. There was no rock stardom and if there was it was our own unknownstars not MTV’s. Some would stay over a night at my house before they crawled back intotheir beat-up vans the following morning to go to the next gig on their tour. This culture,created only by a feeling of and desire for comraderie amongst youth and not corporate gain,was new, aggressive, raw, real, within my own possibilities, and allowed for a chance ofproactive involvement. Shortly, I, too, played on the same stage with the other bands. After a114quick stint of singing, I got a cheap electric guitar and amp and was shown a few simplepower chords. It became possible for me to ‘rock’ as many kids dream of but will neverrealize because to them popular music is an almost impenetrable realm entered by only thevery talented or the very lucky. However, the realization that even I, for the purpose ofexpressing myself, could be and was responsible for making my own magazines, forming myown band, designing and printing my own t-shirts was invigorating and liberating.Leaving the interior to go to school on the coast the first thing I did the day I arrivedin Vancouver, as I promised myself I would, was to join the student radio station at theUniversity. By belonging to the station I became exposed to a variety of music styles, got toattend gigs for free (cool!), and met some of my favourite bands/musicians. So that theirbands get airplay, record labels send music to radio stations free of charge. The new music isput into a listening room for all the disc jockeys to sample. One day, sometime in the Fall of1988, a friend of mine with whom I was doing a weekly punk rock radio show hauled meinto the room and said, “Listen to this”! He played me TAD’s Ritual Device/Daisy 7” single,Swallow’s Trapped/Guts 7” single, and Soundgarden’s Screaming Life 12” EP, all of whichthe station had received at the same time from Seattle’s Sub Pop label. We had found ournew music. Though we knew that the same punk sentiment, ethics, and feelings were there,the water of this music was somehow darker and deeper than punk. The guitar sounds werenot straight ahead rock but jangling experimentation with discordant sound. And they wereheavy. Oh, were they heavy. This was the dangerous combination sound of chainsaws andmotorbikes. And dirt. The sound was dirty, or Grungy, (fuzzy, out of tune/key/sync, ringing,amateurish, muddy, rough, scratchy), as opposed to the clean and practiced sounds on most115recordings, and, because of the ‘live’ feel, it seemed like the band was right there in the roomwith you. The lyrics paralleled the guitars. The content was not as blunt as punk lyrics were.The idea and intent behind such punk tunes as “Nazi Punks Fuck Off!” (D.K.’s), “Let’s Have aWar” (Fear), and “Young ‘Till I Die” (7 Seconds), for example, was obvious. However, thelyrical content of the Sub Pop bands was not as conspicuous, what with songs like “HuntedDown” (Soundgarden), “Sex God Missy” (Tad), and “No One Has” (Mudhoney). These songsalso tended to be more introspective than the straight forward, assaulting, affronting,offensive, and angiy punk song. The howled, screeched, moaned, and groaned words oftensounded like the vocalist was releasing the personal demons which tormented their soul andmind from the dark depths of their belly, something other than just Punk anger. While Punkwas very abrasive and often cold, the general image we gleaned from the music and thealbum covers was a very human warmth and openness as found in pictures of half-nakedpeople writhing on the floor, long hair splayed in every direction, in their own sweat and dirt(see Soundgarden’s Screaming Life ep cover for example).Clinching the decision that this new music was what I wanted to hear and be a part ofwas the first live show I attended at which one of these Seattle bands was playing. Openingfor Sonic Youth, my friends and I witnessed the fat, growling, yet trance-like and groovingmusic of the Screaming Trees. Though fired by a punk energy, these folks were not thetypical punkers that we had become accustomed to. This band was akin to a quartet ofhillbillies dangerously wired for deafening sonic sound. Wearing clothing similar to that oflumberjacks, the immediate visual images projected by the band were of reeling, sweaty, fatbodies and long flailing hair powered by a level exertion not normally attempted by people of116such girth. Bouncing and swinging her long hair back and forth, the female bass player, ararity among rock acts, was here not as novelty or gimmick but because she was the sister ofother members of the band. There was no pretence of them being abrasive musicians or rockstars; no anthemic, chanting verses but a real sense of soul-searching sincerity. A warm,groovy, body feel exuded from their music. Intimate yet aggressive. We hung around forSonic Youth but were not really impressed at the time with the overly artsy and dehumanizedexperimentation sound their large assortment quiver of guitars creates (I later began to likesome of their stuff, though). That night we decided to grow our hair long and I did not getanother hair cut for two and a half years.A month or two later after the show the station received another 7” single from SubPop. On the cover was a picture of three individuals with long hair shown in the fuzzysnapshot, photo-negative style of Charles Peterson who had taken most of the other albumphotos. It appeared no different than any of the other Sub-Pop releases. On the ‘inside’,however, were the first released songs by the band Nirvana. That first listen of their cover ofShocking Blue’s song “Love Buzz” and their own song “Big Cheese” was another one ofthose exciting revelatory moments in my unconscious search for identity and culture. “LoveBuzz” starts of with a geeky and whimsical bass lick, but then it goes into an agonized,comically drawled, thunderous rage. The heavy rendition of the song, originally a disco song(the ‘eternal’ antithesis of punk), incorporates fast punk energy and chaos, a pop music senseof beat and melody with garage-band style, improvisation, and desperation. “Big Cheese”,and the rest of the tunes on the supplementary full-length album Bleach, is similar yet itinvolves a greater level of agony and rage. Some of the growls and howls the singer Kurt117Cobain achieves verge on the same sound tormented and injured animals make. Nirvanabecame a hot item amongst the punk and college radio scene in a short time with this musicalstyle. They took large amounts of the punk ethos, wrapped it in a widely appealing popmusic style recognizable to most youth, introduced previously unexamined topics and feelings,and twisted it with dark, cryptic, and indecipherable lyrics. Subsequently, in 1991, Nirvanareleased the album Nevermind on a major record label (Geffen Records), became popularworldwide, and was held responsible for the introduction of the term and culture known as‘Grunge’ to the mainstream culture. Seeming to catch the (un)consciousness of a supposedlynew, contemporary generation of youth, the band went on to take the previously ignoredsubculture of punk to the level of popular culture. Fears that popularity among mainstreamsociety would homogenize and dilute Nirvana’s music were unfounded with their secondmajor label release, In Utero, in 1993. With a sigh of relief and a reassurance in the punkethic it seemed that Nirvana were not going to let themselves become victims like so manycool bands before them to corporate destruction. On April 8, 1994 Kurt Cobain, within amonth of recovering from a drug and booze induced coma, was found dead. He had killedhimself three days earlier with the business end of a shotgun. Apparently depression, amalady being increasingly attached to the younger generation, about his lack of joy with hisposition as rock performer was the root of his actions. I now wonder what is my/our future...5.1(b) Grunge: Postmodern and Authentic?As the meaning of a text does not really exist until someone tries to read and givesome sort of significance to it from a certain assortment of perspectives, these next twoinstances of interpretation represent an attempt to read significance in cultural text from the118perspectives of postmodernism and authenticity. This also acts as an example of the how thehermeneutical circle of understanding, which seems to allow for the act of understanding, canbe incorporated into an understanding of cultural study. This section is an analysis of actualtextual examples taken from the culture for the purpose of focussing on the reasonablecultural meanings of Grunge. The interpretation of discourses will be limited to one achievedby using only the two previously described ‘frameworks’ of meaning and understanding(postmodernism and authenticity), because I feel they are appropriate to this subject and styleof study. In addition to transforming the cultural texts narratives into words and discourseswhich we can discuss, the purpose for having a dialogue/discussion with the cultural textsunder the auspices that these two perspectives make some sort of sense is to help progress theunderstanding that these conditions or moods actually exist for at least some of society’smembers and, consequently, that there is a reason for such a culture to have meaning for somany contemporary youth. That is, if the reasons for the condition of postmodernism andauthenticity are understood and believed to exist, then the reasons for the immense popularityof this culture should also be understood. Additionally, while in most cases of research aframework is placed on a subject to which it must eventually conform, I believe that theframeworks used here in understanding the subject have come from within the subject itself.Internally decided as opposed to externally. I have found that being a member of acontemporary culture has helped me to understand some of the meaning and truth-claims ofpostmodernism and authenticity and, in return, postmodernism and authenticity have helpedme reflect on, find meaning in, and understand the truth-claims and values of my culture.From this dialogue the circle of interpretation, as described by philosophical hermeneutics,119can continue (though not here) again and again. These two perspectives will not lead to acomplete understanding of the meanings of the culture. They do, however, act to form abetter understanding and provide cause for further instances of study possibly using otherperspectives which are, at this time, beyond the purpose and reach of this study. This readingof the Grunge culture should, however, help 1) provide a deeper, shared understanding ofsome of today’s youth and their experiences in the historical period that could be described aslate-postmodemism, 2) reveal the various cultural, aesthetic, and sociological meaningsresulting from the ethos, mood, or state of mind defined by the terms postmodem andauthentic in the early 1990’s, and 3) further clarify the concepts and interpretive capabilities ofpostmodemism and authenticity.5.1(b)i Interpreting the Grunge Culture/Experience as a Postmodem TextInterpreting Grunge, or in fact any culture, from one or two perspectives is limitingand limited, however, my intent in this paper is only to open up the culture to dialogue whichwill create a deeper understanding of the culture and allow for future study from otherperspectives. In this section, I hope to illustrate how I have interpreted and understood thisculture as expressive of characteristics believed to connote postmodemism. The traits,gathered from previous literature, which seem to express postmodernism are the effacement ofboundaries between past and present, between art and everyday life, the hierarchicaldistinction between high and mass/popular culture, and between safe and marginal societythrough the use of pastiche and parody, the presentation of the unpresentable, an assault onnostalgia (which, all three together, threaten the safe mainstream culture), an incredulitytowards metanarratives, and a concern with otherness. Still, I have reformulated and120simplified the relation of these elements into a concept which I feel is more revealing ofcontemporary cultures. That is, the awareness by contemporary individuals of an ‘otherness’among people creates a disbelief in metanarratives and universalisms which tend to conceal orignore this othemess. The disbelief is expressed in cultural discourses that try to efface thesenarratives and, simultaneously, threaten safe mainstream society. The three primary elementsof this effacement are 1) parody and pastiche, 2) the presentation of the unpresentable, and 3)an assault on nostalgia. These elements of postmodernism found in the artistic texts, theconsumable goods, and the activities of leisure help to locate some of the discourses whichcontemporary cultures separate themselves on the level of meaning and understanding frommodem ones. Before beginning this interpretation, it should be noted that I currently findmyself preoccupied with the works of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, therefore, this interpretationmay tend to be skewed more towards one focussed on these works. I have a desire to basethis interpretation entirely on their work which would still provide a satisfactoryunderstanding of Grunge but that would omit an interpretation of a lot of good creative worksby other people.“In 1991, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ proved a defining moment in rock history. Apolitical song that never mentions politics, an anthem whose lyrics can’t beunderstood, a hugely popular hit that denounces commercialism, a collective shout ofalienation, it was ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ for a new time and a new tribe ofdisaffected youth. It was a giant fuck-you, an immensely satisfring statement aboutthe inability to be satisfied” (DeCurtis 1994: 30).A Disbelief in Metanarratives:The foremost feature of the Grunge culture that excites and interests myself and, Ibelieve, other young people the most is the immense possibilities it creates for mischievous121playfulness. It is in this play that members implicitly and indirectly express their incredulityand disbelief with meta-narratives and grandiose statements while not wanting to or believingthat they have to, in return or in place of, form any of their own. Upon associating them withcontemporary culture, it should be realized that all of the traits of postmodernism associatedwith art listed above appear to be directly concerned with forwarding this single discourse ofdisbelief.A definite example of the expression of incredulity specifically with metanarrativescan be seen in the common practice among bands to not print lyrics on their album sleeves(this practice, however, changes for many when they begin to produce albums with majorrecord labels). Tad Doyle, of the band TAD, expresses a commonly held belief amongmembers when he mentions in an interview with Closet Rock magazine that “we want peopleto interpret lyrics the way they would. I remember growing up and there’s a lot of songs thatdidn’t have lyrics and I interpreted their words a certain way. And they were wrong, but itmeans something. It meant something to me”(Issue_4: 37). This comment reflects perhaps anunconscious knowledge or feeling among members that language and art can be interpreted inmany different ways and present different meanings for different people and, therefore, that itshouldn’t be up to the artist to dictate how the words should be heard and interpreted. KurtCobain of Nirvana, in a rare moment, reiterates this sentiment when he explains that he “can’tstand political lyrics - [because] they’re so obvious. There should be a cryptic element torock ‘n’ roll so you can’t figure it out” (Rees 1992: 46). Cobain and Nirvana bassist KrisNovoselic broaden this feeling in an interview with Much Music, the self proclaimed‘Canada’s music station’, when they tell the interviewer that they are more interested instead in122hearing how their listeners interpret their art (in this case the cover to Nirvana’s Nevermindrelease) than saying, thereby limiting, what their intended meaning was. In the sameinterview they get upset when the interviewer tries to pigeon-hole their style as part of theGrunge, Seattle, Sub-Pop sound or scene. Yes, they are associated with these terms orsupposed styles but that does not mean they can be completely described, understood, andrendered forever invariable by and from these definitions. This expression is descendent fromthe punk ethic which holds that, as Novoselic stated at the vigil for Cobain, ‘no band isspecial, no player royalty’. There is no consideration of or desire for a separation betweenartist as genius and audience as worshipping dopes incapable of creating or thinking on theirown. A relationship which would effectively erode both the equality between culturalmembers and the disbelief in metanarratives. Postmodern artistic creation is found in thecreation of a work and in its individual interpretation. The multitude of lives andinterpretations become part of the progressive, multiple, and endless meaning of the work ofart.In many of the discourses found within the expressions of modern art meanings andmetanarratives are also questioned, however, these discourses often seem to supplant thesewith replacement metanarratives of their own. This cannot be said for the discourses of theGrunge culture which appear to question without the promotion or suggestion of areplacement or superior narrative. This is apparent in and supported, as an example, by theway in which members present themselves in everyday life. While other cultures often havea set or standard way of dress (a uniform) and lifestyle which they assume, this newgeneration of punks never tries to sustain such a restriction. For a time, after the long123tradition of short crewcuts or shaved heads among punks (done as an textual assault of thehippy culture), long hair became the standard for members. This can be seen in many of thehairy and sweaty pictures on the covers and inserts of the Sub-Pop releases. Following thelead of Henry Rollins and the band Black Flag, the meaning of long hair on punks was a kickin the face or a shot to the mind of the non-questioning shaved punk who was againstconformity yet was still, in a way, conforming. Long, wavy, unkempt hair also looked coolon stage as it was swung around to the heavy thunder of the new punk influenced music.However, this narrative is again being questioned as prominent players cut off their locks.The most drastic is seen in the change in SoundOarden’s singer Chris Cornell. Famous forhis ‘gorgeous’, long, and wavy mane which he flailed about and rolled around in (see thephotos on SoundGarden’s Screaming Life album cover and sleeve for example), Cornellrecently shaved it all off to the shock of all his fans (see SoundGarden’s Super Unknownphotos and the associated videos of ‘Spoonman’ and ‘Black Hole Sun’). SoundGarden and hairwent together but here was the singer (and now most of the other members of the band) goingagainst their own original narrative. Constant change and formation of cultural narrative isnecessary for and is a significant feature of these contemporary cultures.Another expression of this discourse of disbelief about their own metanarratives can beseen in some of the fashion elements of the culture. Again focussing on prominent players,Kurt Cobain’s clothing choice (which is similar to those expressed by Billy Corgan and JamesIha of Smashing Pumpkins) presents a curious narrative in a couple of social arena’s. Hetends/tended to wear an array of attire that comes from second-hand clothing stores such asold woolly cardigans, lowtop basketball shoes, worn out jeans, and, especially, bizarrely124coloured and designed shirts (remnants of the 60’s and 70’s cultures), pajamas, and summerdresses. While following the Punk ethic of spending as little as possible on attire, thisclothing implicitly and simultaneously questions set images of Grunge rock and men in rockand contradicts Cobain’s own aggressive musical expressions. The lumberjack, flannel shirt,Doc Marten boot look that has been associated with Grunge is definitely not expressed hereas the whimsical shirts, meek sweaters, and flowery dresses are completely antithetical to therough and ready outdoor wear and music commonly associated with the culture. At the sametime, these expressions of whimsy and femininity acts to challenge both the mainstream andGrunge cultures’ ideas about masculinity and machoism that have always been associated withrock music. It not only shows a disbelief in certain rock culture traditions but also indicatesthe constant effort of the producing members of the Grunge culture to create, provide, andinvestigate discourses that question their own thoughts, ideas, expressions, and traditions.Some of the turmoil and confusion resulting from the simultaneous expression ofchallenge to mainstream culture’s metanarratives and their own is expressed not only in worksof the culture but can also be found in the ‘private’ activities of some of the cultural members.Drug use, and especially heroin use in the Seattle area, in addition to the copious amounts ofalcohol that is consumed has seemingly become popular among some of the culture’spopulation. This sort of activity is nothing new to the rock world or youth cultures, yet in theprevious ones it was more or less promoted or celebrated as acceptable, whereas, now in thecontemporary postmodem cultures it is still participated in but not suggested as the right thingto do. For instance, the much publicized addiction of Kurt Cobain and his wife, CourtneyLove. While it was apparent they were both frequent users of the substance, one of the125reasons they did not want to admit or suggest that this is in fact what they did was theconcern that it may appear they were supporting its use. This position is similar to Cobain’sone on guns. In his music it is apparent that he is against the redneck mentality associatedwith firearms and puts in a negative context the belief that it is an American’s God givenright to bear them. However, in a Request magazine interview with him he admits to beingdrawn to the power and thrill of being able to use and properly control such a weapon and theneed to have one (Nov. 1993: 34). After receiving one as a wedding present he purchased afew guns (and purportedly had many a disagreement over them with Courtney) and eventuallyended his own existence with one.Collectively, these cultural examples which express a discourse that disbelieves in allforms of metanarratives and do not seem to suggest alternate ones are representative of thechaos that fills contemporary cultures and provide one of the reasons that traditional andmodern ways of interpreting have difficulty understanding them. The varied discoursesindicate a realization and contemplation of the multiple possibilities and choices with whichhumans are faced in their day to day lives and a lack of desire or will to propose which ofthese possibilities, separately and in combination, are appropriate. The incredulity towardsmeta-narratives provides cause for discourse and expression but it also provides a source ofconfusion and anxiety in the necessary attempt to not provide any new meta-narratives assubstitute.Concern With Otherness:One of the most important factors which contributes to the disbelief in metanarrativesis the awareness of and concern with ‘otherness’. That is, individuals are aware of a variety126of differences between and among social groups on the level of social condition, experience,meaning, and understanding and concerned that the domination of one metanarrative overother less dominant ones acts to eliminate or suppress equally valid and important identities.Some of the traditionally dominant metanarratives in North American culture are those relatedto family, wealth, beauty, power, heterosexuality, masculinity, religion, science, and anglosaxonism and it is the oppression that arises from the continual adherence to these ideaswhich contemporary postmodem youth cultures textually express their disbelief towards andagainst. The discourse arising from this concern is expressed in the various artisticforms/texts and acts to implicitly question, experience, and inform on the variety ofpossibilities that go disregarded, ridiculed, or suppressed.Most youth cultures, and especially those related to rock ‘n’ roll, seem to have beencreated from an androcentric viewpoint and tend to valorize entertainment and lifestyles thatare traditionally masculine. Some of the expressions that usually evolve from this associationof rock and masculinity are seen in the macho posturing on stage and in video of strong andtightly denim and leather clad male musicians, the frequent topic of getting-losing-gettingback girl in rock lyrics, and the singleminded objectification of women (especially physicallyendowed women) in video and artwork by similarly beautiful but misogynist men. With asemi-conscious and unarticulated understanding of the negative effect of these narratives,Grunge culture submits discourse on the condition and experience of women and femaleness,the vulnerable, innocent, and complex existence of children and childhood, the existing realityof homosexuality, and of individuals who don’t reflect dominant ideals of beauty and prestige.With the advent of punk, female participation in music centred youth culture increased.127Leaving behind the days where females were seen only as screaming and fainting hordes ofteenage fans idolizing male bands, as decoration for these bands, or as a group of singerssinging pretty songs, Punk and Grunge bands are now formed either partially or completelyby females which audiences understand as serious rather than gimmick acts. The females inthese bands (such as Hole, L7, Bikini Kill, the Breeders, and Babes in Toyland) express andexperience themselves, dispensing with pretty, soft, quiet and clean and replacing with dirty,loud, nasty and aggressive, in a traditionally male cultural textual style. On the other hand,while much of the texts in the Grunge culture express concerns without any genderspecificity, there are many instances that show an attempt by male artists to understand andexperience some of the female condition and to present it as being neither inferior or superior,just ‘other’ than theirs. Kurt Cobain, who was to my knowledge probably the most activemember in the pursuit of this concern, has often been photographed or described in thevarious stages of his investigation of femininity. In addition to his songs “About a Girl”,“Been a Son”, “Polly”, and “Rape Me” (which primarily and in a progressive degree ofblatancy deal with the oppression, torment, torture and other forms of misogynist treatmentthat many females endure at the hands of males) and his artistic works which depict areflexivity on the female reproductive role and power, he can often be found wanderingaround wearing dresses, eyeliner, and nail polish. I understand this not necessarily as apretentious or contrived posturing but as a sincere attempt to discover a small portion of thestereotypical female world and to express that the culturally formed narratives and experiencesassociated with these forms of decoration do not have to necessarily belong to one specificgender. To many of the kids who have come to the Grunge culture with the rise in its128popularity and are not used to this form of iconoclasm a certain cathartic confusion andappeal can occur due to the freedom and equality that this discourse expresses.This form of cross-gender expression inevitably results in a discussion abouthomosexuality. Partly in response to the kisses that members of Nirvana sometimes give eachother on stage and the fact that Kurt sometimes wears dresses and once mentioned that “(he)definitely feel(s) closer to the feminine side of the human being than (he) do(es) the male - orthe American idea of what a male is supposed to be” (Azerrad 1992: 41), it is reported thatCourtney Love has said that she had a number of lesbian experiences and that Kurt had kissedall the cute boys in town. While it does not matter if this statement is true or not, theexpression which achieved one of its Punk goals as being inflammatory is made to supportthe case that individuals should be able to live a ‘normal’ sexual existence but can alsoexperience other ‘deviant’ behaviour and that it doesn’t matter. In response to a lot of thecriticism that they received about such comments, due in most part to the place they hold inpopular cultural consciousness, Kurt flatly responded, ‘If you’ve got a problem with our gayfriends, stay the fuck away from us and don’t buy our records’. These commentssimultaneously express the case that the othemess of homosexuality does not necessarily haveto be some deviant, rare, or queer behaviour and, more implicitly, that people should open upthe minds to differences among people.Since most of the individuals drawn to the expressions of Grunge and the meaningsthat they find there are mostly in their teens and early twenties, the majority of the culturalmembers are not that far removed from their days of early childhood. However, one of therecurring images in the culture shows a nostalgia and concern for childhood and its related129conditions and memories. Apart from the case that almost all of the cultural activities, frommaking music and art, going to shows and hanging out, to choosing one’s attire, seem toreflect a desire to play or for playfulness much of the culture’s textual discourse seems toindicate a desire to return to earlier times to either maintain an innocence, understand whytheirs and other’s childhoods were painful, or to find a way to start again and avoid the painfound in growing up. The discourse of Smashing Pumpkins’ album Siamese Dream, forexample, is loaded with expressions of innocent youth and fantasy functional families. Thealbum cover is a picture of two little cherub-like girls with smiles on their faces and angelwings attached to their white Sunday-best dresses. In the liner notes booklet the lyrics arewritten on top of 1940’s-50’s style photographs which depict traditional and enjoyable parent-child relationships and emanate images of a pureness and goodness. Pearl Jam’s songs“Jeremy”, “Alive”, and “Why Go” all seem to be concerned with a tormented existenceresulting from such things as neglective and untruthful parents or other bad home situationsthat can be and has been childhood for some or what now appears to be many young people.The portrayal of the killing of oneself, as implicitly depicted at the end of the video for“Jeremy”, or the numbing of oneself with drug use expresses a concern for the tragic, drastic,and, increasingly, common methods that the kids in these situations take or consider to saveor release themselves from these horrible conditions. Kurt Cobain, one of the many whofound suicide as the appropriate way to help himself, takes the concern with childhood to anextreme with his fascination for and fixation on what I interpret as a return to the verybeginnings of childhood with his seemingly endless references to families, babies, birth, andfemale reproduction. The images can be found in most of the textual forms on Nirvana’s130album covers such as the baby on the cover of Nevermind, the sonogram of Frances Bean(Courtney and Kurt’s baby daughter) on the Lithium ep inner cover, the collage of fetusesboth in and out of the womb on the back of In Utero (the latin term for ‘in the uterus’) and inthe lyrics to many of Nirvana’s songs. In contrast to the saddening first line of ‘In Bloom’(“Sell the kids for food”), the lyrics and titles to other songs such as ‘Been a Son’, ‘Serve theServants’ (“I’ve tried hard to have a father but instead I had a Dad”), ‘School’ (“Wouldn’t youbelieve it, just my luck, no recess”), ‘Drain You’ (“One baby to another said, I’m lucky tohave met you”), ‘Scentless Apprentice’ (“Like most babies smell like butter”), and ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ (“Throw down your umbilical cord so I can climb right back”) may have otherdarker meanings when taken in context of their respective songs but, as a whole, theircontinual reoccurrences create a feeling that there is a fondness for early, simple, relationshipsand experiences between young children and their parents, society, and other kids. Cobain, intalking with Gina Arnold about how Calvin Johnson and his K record label influenced him,states that “it was just a reminder of how much I really value innocence and children and myyouth. Beat Happening (Calvin’s band) had a lot to do with reminding me of how preciousthat whole childlike world is. I have great memories of what it was like to be a little kid. Itwas a really good time, and I see a lot of beauty in it. I was happiest then. I didn’t have toworry about anything”(Arnold 1993: 143-144). This strongly shared sentiment of the culturewhich can be seen in part by the current popularity of Japan’s Shonen Knife and Vancouver’sCub, two bands comprised of females which project images of childlike innocence, cuteness,and simplicity in their music style, fashion, and graphic art but with dark underlyingnarratives in their lyrics, expresses a definite concern with an attempt to regain or at least131view the innocent otherness that was known or supposed to have been known in youth buthas since been infected with modem adult existence.The concern with otherness is also implicitly expressed in the varied images associatedwith physical appearance. In a media intensified society where image is everything certainideas about appearance and beauty form an very strict and oppressive narrative and peoplewho do not or cannot fit into these images face extreme prejudice and/or ridicule. Non-beautiful, non-rich, non-thin, non-fit, non-fashionable, and untidy people often becomeostracized from mainstream society and become the ‘others’. The Grunge culture displays avariety of images which implicitly express a lack of concern with the social prejudicessurrounding appearance and erode the boundaries that form the otherness. The ‘celebration’ ofthe girth of a few members of the Screaming Trees and the tremendous size of Tad Doyle ofTAD can be seen as an acceptance of or a lack of interest about the image of overweightpeople in popular culture or society in general. As is popularly recognized in the secondhand, rough, ragged, functional, and affordable clothing style of associated with Grunge,concerns about stylish fashion are tossed out the window completely which expresses both adisbelief in the social metanarratives that dictate what style of attire is cool and what is notand a concern that the ideas about proper attire are determined by the affluent. Similarly,ideas about beauty are also effaced with displays of the tragic use of make-up by female (andsometimes male) members of the culture and the toting of awkward haircuts. Other culturalimages of frailty, ugliness, and poverty all act to question some of the negative pluralismsthat mainstream culture creates and dominate with.132Expressions of Postmodernity:As contemporary postmodern cultures seem to have a strong disbelief inmetanarratives and a concern with otherness, a dominant discourse becomes the vaguelydefined effacement or erosion of metanarratives and an implicit presentation or display ofotherness. This discourse is achieved through the use of three common expressions:a) parody and pastiche, b) presentation of the unpresentable, and c) an assault on nostalgia.(a) Expressions of Parody and PasticheOne of the most popular ways in which punk and Grunge can be found to efface theboundaries with which metanarratives are erected and protected is through the use of pasticheand parody. In the often subtle piecing or placing together of a variety of imitated andsimulated cultural styles or works, certain peculiarities of mainstream culture are projected,heightened, and/or exaggerated. It is here that cynicism, sarcasm, and humour are playfullycombined in an imaginative and intuitive way with an implicit intent of questioning andridiculing such things as universalisms and traditions. Not only are modernisms and otherphenomena associated with mainstream culture, the targets of these harassments but thepredicaments and conditions of the members’ very own lives are self-parodied. Sincecontemporary youth cultures seem to be almost entirely concerned with the constant mixingand forming of codes and expressions at a level of cultural consumption and leisure, asopposed to the philosophical or political, the result is that the objects most parodied are thosewhich exist at the level of consumption and leisure. The cultures that are the target of mostparody in Grunge texts are those that are closest to many of the members’ experience.Originating from the Northwest region of Washington state and centring in Seattle, it is easy133to understand why the cultural discourses of parody gravitate to a focus on 1) small townculture and 2) many aspects of the baby boomer culture.Many of the leading cultural producers of Grunge text come from the logging andfishing towns of the West Coast of Washington State where, like other small towns, culturalexpression and understanding is quite limited and confining. In these small towns, partiallydue to their small populations, dominant narratives are strict and do not permit any kid withmore than half a brain or less than an athletic ability much leeway in the freedom ofexpression. Much of the musical stylings that Grunge is founded on is typical of bandspopular in small towns, such as Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Led Zeppelin, and CheapTrick, yet the lyrical overtones dealing with the anger and frustration over the ignorance thatoften prevails in these areas turns these recognizable sounds back on the unknowing listeners.Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is a case in point. On the surface the song and its relatedvideo appear to be celebrating the popular narratives of high school, pep rally, party timekids. With the immense popularity of this song even the jock assholes’ who thought thatKurt Cobain was a ‘faggot’ joyfully thumped along to the tune. However, the lyrics (first line:“load up on guns and bring your friends”) that sarcastically ridicule the tyrannical small-townhighschool mentality and the images of an outcast uprising in the gymnasium when all the‘cool’ kids have left and no one except the sympathizing janitor is around to watch the reveriesubversively undermines the hick cultural domination.The band TAD (and Screaming Trees to an extent) incorporate parodied images ofsmalltown culture into their creative texts which act to both threaten the fragile sensibilities ofurban, mainstream culture and ridicule the ignorance that festers in small town environments.134Confronted with the humorous and disturbing graphic images of monster trucks and inbredhillbillies and dogs on the band’sr album covers, song titles such as ‘Satan’s Chainsaw’, ‘Highon the Hog’, and ‘Axe to Grind’, and personas depicting big, fat, hairy, sweaty, plaid-flannelshirted, and hobnail booted rednecks jacked up on booze and drugs with ample access tochainsaws and firearms what else could the cosmopolitan city dweller be but scared? Justimagine the disturbing sight when these large individuals begin to roll around a confinedstage in the throes of musical ecstasy. Look out The ironic contradictions here are that inreal life the band members are actually quite friendly and gentle but use the narratives tocollide commonly held understandings of the two worlds (urban and rural) together resultingin a confusing array of questions without promoting one world over the other. The use ofthese twisted images associated with the small town experience is both a celebration of thecharm of members’ rural upbringing and a simultaneous parody denigrating the ignorance ofthe people who close-mindedly support and propagate the horror and oppression of this sameculture. On the other hand, an enthusiastic terrorization of the safe dominant urban societywith exaggerated images of rural barbarism is performed from within the intellectual safetyand openness of the city.Punk rock was always against the hypocrisy that it perceived the baby boomergeneration was guilty of with the evolution of the dropped-out hippy to the money-grubbingyuppie and the lack of resolve or result that tuning out had for them. Grunge is not soforthcoming or political with condemnations or slogans but uses the elements of parody andpastiche to ridicule some of the cultural narratives that the previous youth generations hold assacred. The musical styles borrow from and combine the garage rock of the 50’s and 60’s, the135psychedelic rock of the 60’s and 70’s, the heavy metal of the 70’s, and the glam pop-rock ofthe 70’s and 80’s, however, by damaging these styles with punk aggression and anger, heardin the tortured chords and distorted sounds, there is an underlying attempt to wrench thesestyles from the previous generations and tear them to dischordant pieces. The bandMudhoney, for example, takes and accelerates a 60’s garage guitar sound (classic rock) buttorments the associated clean-cut, vocal harmonizing tradition with out-of-tune, nasallywhining and a collage of tragic cultural fashions borrowed from a variety of styles whichresults in them looking like a bunch of spastic nerds. The confused reassembling of thepieces acts to simultaneously render a sarcastic slur against the tender memories of anotheryouth culture while revelling in the delirium of playfully reassembling and enjoying the partsof that culture.“HateHaightI’ve got a new complaintForever in debt to your priceless advice”- chorus from ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ by Nirvana railing against the 60’s hippyHaight street generationA representative ‘act’ of resistance against the boomer’s culturally hegemonic narrativesthrough mockery is found on the April 16, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone (featuring Nirvana)which promises to go inside the heart and mind of Kurt Cobain. This magazine, originatingas one of the most politically critical and aware and socially iconoclastic publications of itstime, is now one of the largest institutional remnants of the hippy era remaining in NorthAmerican cultural consciousness. The magazine has pretended to maintain a hip awareness of136contemporary youth cultures while it increasingly becomes a corporate entity with moreinterest in procuring advertisements for products to be consumed by the 30-somethinggeneration. In its present form the magazine is completely antithetical to punk. With theadvent of Grunge into popular culture it was inevitable that the magazine would prey on andcommodify this new culture/trend. Nirvana, trying to deal with the conflict between theirpunk ethic which purports to ‘kill all rock stars’ and becoming just that, rock stars, foundthemselves in a very difficult and ironic position when it was their turn to appear on the coverof the Rolling Stone (all together now, sing: Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone). The result wasthat Nirvana struck a typical band photo pose for the camera but, for the purpose of sending adefinite and direct message to both his peers and the boomer generation, Kurt Cobain hadscrawled on the front of his t-shirt the cynical message ‘Corporate Magazines Still Suck’,playing off the tongue-in-cheek message seen in their ‘Sliver’ video ‘Indie. (Independent) Punx(sic) Still Suck’. In this picture the band manages to parody the rock star image and traditionthat R.S. has had great pleasure in creating by simultaneously appearing on its glossy coveryet denigrating the entire magazine industry. The article inside almost becomes insignificantas the cover already projects what actually is inside Cobain’s heart and mind. The covercreates an essence of confusion that is characteristic of contemporary culture because the bandvalidates and invalidates the magazine at the same time, thereby, leaving questions anddecisions about wether the magazine is legitimate or not up to the reader.137‘Everybody loves usEverybody loves this townEverythings getting kind of oldSo I’m leaving it now’- from ‘Overblown’ by Mudhoney‘Teenage angst has paid off wellNow I’m bored and old’- from ‘Serve the Servants’ by NirvanaIn the instance of becoming a popular culture, if a contemporary culture is insistent onexpressing a disbelief in metanarratives created by other cultures through the use of parody, it,too, must eventually become the target or object of its own expression. This internaldemolition is done to undermine any attempt or tendency that comes with popularity to createsome form of metanarrative from the cultural texts, expression, discourses, and narratives.This self-denigration creates problems for modernist thinkers who can’t understand thecondition of disbelief in metanarratives.Within Punk there is the ethic of anti-corporatism which contests culturalcommercialisation, that is, cultural production and self-promotion done only for the sake ofmonetary and personal gain, and the resulting cultural domination as seen in the formation ofidols, rock stars, fads, trends, and ‘scenes’. Grunge, as a descendent of Punk, shares this ethic,yet with its transition to popularity finds itself becoming that which it loathes,commercialized. Consequently, many cultural texts express a discourse of self-parody toefface their own popular narrative. In addition to Nirvana’s Rolling Stone cover comment,where Cobain’s t-shirt message simultaneously mocks both the magazine that he appears onand himself for appearing on and in it, t-shirt messages, magazine covers, songs, and videosare used as means by the more commercialized Grunge bands to parody themselves and theirculture. Mark Arm, the singer of Mudhoney, who is rumoured to have termed the word138‘Grunge’ and now seems to be one of its (the label) most vocal opponents, has been seen toappear in a shirt with the phrase ‘Nobody Knows That I’m New Wave’ (Rolling Stone April16/92: 48) on it referring to the cheesy and presently uncool youth culture which was alsospawned from Punk, thereby, mocking his own creative texts. In visual and musical form,Arm and his band, Mudhoney, parody the media- created Grunge culture with the song andvideo for “Suck You Dry”. The song title refers to the way in which outsiders (popularmedia, record industry weasels, and out-of-town bands which have relocated/jumped on theSeattle bandwagon for the exposure) have come to the Grunge scene with the sole intent oftrying to get as much money as they can out of the it. The video portrays a Grunge reunionparty at which nobody shows up because there really never was a scene only superficialcommodities. Mudhoney’s song “Overblown” is another one of their tunes which, with thelyrics “Everybody loves us/Everybody loves our town/That’s why I’m thinking of leavingit/Don’t believe in it now. ../It’s so overblown”, criticizes and mocks their ‘scene’ that hasbecome ruined by the corporatism which many of the members courted themselves. BeforeNirvana became popular they offered a t-shirt with the humorously self-deprecative list‘Fudge-packin’ Crack Smokin’ Satan Worshippin’ Mother Fuckers’ printed on it which, afterbecoming famous and part of the major record industry, changed to the diametricallyoppositional yet still self-mocking list ‘Flower-sniffing Kitty-pettin’ Baby- kissin’ CorporateRock Whores’. For an independent, alternative punk band, the initial t-shirt was a humorousway of playing up and caricaturing the part of the evil rock musicians while the latter is aseif-parodying, self-chastising, and self-depreciating comment on the despicable position theymore recently found themselves in as a popular, major label pop-rock band. The chorus to139Nirvana’s song ‘In Bloom’ (“He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs, and he likes to singalong, and he likes to shoot his gun, but he knows not what it means”) points out the self-realization that the band no longer speaks just for the misfits but now entertains a mainstreamaudience. The naked baby floating in water and reaching for a dollar bill impaled on a largefish hook on the cover of Nevermind (Nirvana’s first major release) also expresses these samesentiments of cynicism towards their despised place in popular culture. The image can beunderstood as meaning that the small amount of money used as bait by the big record labelshas lured the innocent and defenceless band members to a nasty and painful end in a world ofcommodification/corruption. Similarly, the subtitle below a picture of the band SmashingPumpkins, whose song “Cherub Rock” expresses some biting remarks on the ‘selling out’,compromising, and subsequent oppression by the once alternative rock scene, on the August‘93 Alternative Press cover more explicitly expresses the same feeling. “Sleeping With theEnemy” can be understood as a comment on the conflict ridden and confusing relationshipbetween formerly independent alternative rock bands and their new major label, profitoriented handlers. The self-parody of the Grunge bands own popular images is an expressionof disbelief in these images. What else can be done but go against the corporate idea of amale rock star than to appear on the cover of a publication in a ugly summer dress, poorlydone make-up, and chipped nail polish as Kurt Cobain did on Request’s November 1993issue?(b) Expressions of Presentations of the UnpresentablePunk rock has always been the presentation of the unpresentable by punk youth tomainstream society. Initially, the frequent images formed by artistically arranged symbols of140safety pins, swastikas, leather jackets with metal studs, highly contrasting makeup, andcoloured spiky hair shocked unsuspecting parents and people on the street but eventuallybecame part of a media stereotype and lost their value. However, what mainstream societydidn’t see were the related cultural texts such as record covers and sleeves, punk shows(though they have been simulated and mocked on television), and ‘zine articles whichexpressed a range of ideas that weren’t intended to just shock mainstream society but questionit also. With the popularity of Grunge these and other subcultural discourses are now beingbrought into the open and pose new threats for the metanarratives that hold mainstreamsociety together. They often present a challenge to the boundaries that have ordinarilyseparated modem private life from public life. With modernity there seems to be an attemptto make mainstream dominant society clean, safe, sleek, and healthy (physically,psychologically, and economically) which the upper-middle class oriented 1980’s with theprofusion of images promoting normal, healthy, strong, rich, beautiful people were indicativeof. However, when comparing the conspicuous facts of mental and physical illness,dysfunctional family life, environmental pollution, economic greed, social violence, andextreme levels of poverty with the sterile images that the seemingly omnipresent media relayit should be obvious that the reality of modern society is not this way. In response, cultureswith a postmodern ‘state of mind’ playfully and superficially form textual discourses usingimages depicting rot or decay, disease and death, violence and brutality, insanity,homosexuality, the degradation of women, sado-masochistic rituals, sexual ‘deviance’, andfirearm, drug, and alcohol use and abuse. The immediate face-value of these textualexpression is shock and horror but underlying meaning arises from a show of concern for an141‘otherness’ or the varied social conditions of others by effacing the social metanarratives thatdisregard or depreciate these conditions.Until very recently, the aggressive, nasty, and noisy music of Punk and Grunge, uponwhich the rest of the culture is buoyed, was itself unpresentable for the delicately q-tippedears of mainstream society accustomed to the soft sounds of mainstream pop music. Thepurposefully rough recordings present a heavy, abrasive, scary, aggressive, and ‘live’ soundsuch that it often feels like the band is right in the listener’s personal space, thereby, making itimpossible to ignore. This live sound is both a consequence of artistic intent and economics.Independent bands do not have a lot of money and as a result the final product is not assmooth or technically clean as are major label recordings. This difference and separation canbe heard by comparing Nirvana’s first independent ip, Bleach, with their second, major labelcd, Nevermind. The former is one of the recordings rendered by producer Jack Endino whohas recorded most of the Sub Pop and other Seattle area bands and is held responsible forcreating the ‘Seattle sound’. This ‘sound’ is actually the lack of, or limited use of, expensiveand costly hi-tech digital studio equipment which tends to soften and smooth out rock music.One of the things that attracted me to punk in the first place was the fact that all or most ofthe songs on a punk record were good and were almost aurally identical to the live show.This is in contrast to the disappointment delivered by major acts which usually have one ortwo good songs on a release, the rest being filler, and can rarely duplicate the sound of therecord while in concert. After years of studio/technology formed music the Punk/Grungesound proved that good music did not have to be homogenized and it did not have to be doneat a great cost by professionals. For their third album, In Utero, Nirvana reverted back to a142live sound achieved through the use of multiple microphones and only a limited amount ofpost-production in order to re-capture that ‘gritty’ feel or essence which forces the music andits images into the consciousness of the listener. Growing with the surgence of Punk into themainstream the style of capturing a live sound through jo-tech and minimal economic meanshas begun to change people’s ideas of what types of music are suitable for popular radio andtelevision play. It effaces and changes attitudes about what passes for popular music andrecovers for the average and unique creative individual the ability to perform and distributemusic and other cultural texts.Ironically, this music of intrusion is the music of introverts and passive-aggressives;decent individuals who usually keep to themselves and a small circle of friends in day to daylife but explode the recesses of their troubled minds into their art and onto the stage.Expressions of unmentionable social ills and sicknesses give a gritty and dirty account of reallife experiences; experiences which are either avoided, hidden, or softened in mainstreamculture. The purpose of bringing them into the open is not only to ease the pain bytemporarily releasing the demons that eat at the (over)sensitive individual, crazed by thepressure, inconsistencies, and oddities they perceive in and between dominant social narrativesand their own personal ones, but to bombastically stimulate those who choose to ignore themand console those who cannot. The presentation of certain social phenomena that have beenexiled from the modern mainstream society as unclean is seen in many of the textual forms.Lyrics, at least the ones that can be deciphered, often seem to deal with something beingdirty, decayed, and confused. Others deal with the topic of torment (such as the sexualtorture of Polly in Nirvana’s song of the same name), the cruelty of children and parents and143the drastic responsive/declarative measures taken against them (as shown in Pearl Jam’s song‘Jeremy’), and the questioning of one’s self image and worth (like in Soundgarden’s song‘Drawing Flies’ (“I share a cigarette with negativity, Sitting here like wet ashes, With X’s inmy eyes and drawing flies”)). The visual images accompanying these songs on the cd coversand videos reflect these readings of ‘unpresentable’ feelings and lives. The video forSoundgarden’s song “Jesus Christ Pose” appears heretical and blasphemous by depictingcrucified figures in various forms and states (among them being a male, a female, aTerminator type robot, and a decaying corpse). The video for “Jeremy” figuratively showsthe mental torment of a boy who, troubled by the alienation created by and from his parentsand other kids, ‘spoke in class today’ by killing himself with a gun in front of his shocked,appalled, and, accordingly, blood spattered classmates. Kurt Cobain seemed to enjoyexpressing himself on the covers of his albums with depictions the diametrically opposedimages of monkeys with electrodes in their heads and colourful butterflies (Nevermind cd),vegetable-like humanoids and decayed corpses among blooming flowers and butterflies(Lithium ep), fetuses among orchids (In Utero), and medical style renditions of the femalebody and its revealed internal organs and angel wings (ibid). The band Skin Yard is able tosimultaneously depict three ‘unpresentable’ images of women on their Hallowed Ground cover.This picture shows a woman who, wearing an Islamic style balaclava to conceal her identity,is (1) naked, (2) has hairy armpits, and (3) is pointing the barrel of a large gun at the viewer.The ways in which these images are presented, both in lyrical and pictorial form, are notexploitative of the viewer or their subjects nor are they dictative of meaning. They are onlymeant to present and pose brief, fragmented, and sometimes contradictory particles of144disturbing and humorous images amongst the multitude of sterilized and dominant imagesencountered in day to day mainstream life in order to stir a sense of unease. This unease thatthey create is done in an unarticulated hope that ideas about what is right, normal, or properare questioned and changed.“Wearing a dress shows I can be as feminine as I want,’ [Kurt Cobain] says, in a jabat the macho undercurrents that he detests in rock. ‘I’m a heterosexual... big deal. Butif I was a homosexual, it wouldn’t matter either” (Hilburn 1993: Cl)Often, the live shows can also be displays of the unpresentable. The lack of fashionconcern popularly associated with Grunge style, as seen in the ‘hairy’, ‘grubby’, ‘unkempt’, and‘unhealthy’ appearances of members day-to-day and on stage, can not only be understood tobe a display of a lack of concern with what individuals who judge on external appearancesthink but a display of other possible human physical styles and lifestyles. It is if the buskersand beggars, who by day assault the delicate senses of the suburban dwellers shopping orgoing to work in the malls downtown with their lack of fashion sense and good manners,have taken to the stage and airwaves and are beginning to steal and corrupt the youth oftoday. Equally horrible is if at these same shows the children were also made to questiontheir own sexuality or at least question what is accepted as normal sexuality and displays ofaffection. The members of Nirvana have often been reported to have kissed each other whileonstage (homoerotica?) in various degrees from a kiss on the lips to ‘full-on’ french kissing(ie. with tongues). This ‘performance’ serves as a challenge to the rules which dictate howmale friends should display affection for each other, has been used to purposefully piss offcrowds which the band interpreted as being ignorant (prejudice, homophobic, or misogynist),and presents a sexual relationship possibility that mainstream culture tends to, or prefers to,145hide. It is done as one example of another way of life, not a better or preferred way. Thereaction by the mainstream media, of course, was to miss the point and broadcast thepossibility that Kurt Cobain, the supposed spokesman for a new generation, was, ‘gasp!’, ahomosexual. This same media is also shocked by the destruction, apparently a bad orinappropriate display by popular idols of young people, that often happens onstage at a Punkor Grunge concert. What can happen is that at the end of a gig the members of the bandmight destroy their musical instruments and equipment on stage and then leave amid theassaulting sound of feedback. The members of Nirvana told me in an interview I had withthem in 1989, and author Gina Arnold confirms this, that they usually do it either becausethey are a) pissed off at something in the world that day and like to express their anger orfrustration in this way or b) that their ‘equipment is shitty’ and they just felt like wrecking it.These loud, ‘violent’, and destructive stage expressions move to another area of beingunpresentable when bands comprised of females, such as L7, Hole, Seven Year Bitch, BikiniKill, and Calamity Jane which are often separately labelled as or making up part of the RiotGrrl culture, perform the most ‘unladylike’ displays. While these bands are not that differentfrom the others, because they are composed either completely or partially by females theirnoisy, obnoxious, and ugly expressions of aggression and confrontation take on a whole newmeaning for individuals who believe females have to be or behave in proper ways.Consequently, Grunge shows are not only events for entertainment but a medium to express anarrative of a display of otherness and a disbelief in certain social norms that suppress thisotherness.Images of drug and alcohol use and abuse in youth cultures are definitely not unique146to Grunge. However, instead of being part of the recreational and celebrated persona of theband members, in this culture it can be seen as an unintentional expression of part of theunpresentable decay of the mental and physical state of contemporary youth or artist. Theaspect of drugs as a party facilitator typical of rock ‘n’ roll is withdrawn while the associationto dull or numb boredom, pain, and depression becomes prominent. Conflict and confusionsurrounding the use is apparent because on one hand there are expressions of trying to denythe use of drugs and statements that drugs are not worth it while on the other there is theobvious effect of drug use on performances, creations, and lives. Use does occur and whilethe use is not condoned or promoted it does fly unsympathetically in the face of the just sayno’ campaigns (both Nancy Reagan’s and the Straight Edge Punk faction) of the 80’s. Foranyone who has taken drugs, alcohol, or participated in any other method of recreationalrelease it should be apparent that there is often more than one reason for doing it and thatstopping is more complicated than just saying ‘no’.Leaving aside the social issues of drug use, with the growing popularity of Grungeboth as a culture for youth and as a trend for the media to highlight the unpresentable imagesand expressions related to the activity of drug use within the culture begin to take shape asartistic texts. As with other texts within contemporary youth cultures, the expression of druguse can be seen to reflect the cultural discourse of confusion, conflict, and ambiguity withoutresolution surrounding the disbelief in metanarratives. After the heightened popularity of druguse in the 60’s and 70’s and the backlash against drug use in the ‘return to values’ 80’s the‘position’ within the new cultures of the 90’s is to neither condone nor condemn drug use.Kurt Cobain was not the first nor the last person to use drugs but, because of his situation as147big new rock star, his use became well publicized. Nirvana bass player Novoselic repeatedlymakes statements in interviews to the effect that they are pothead philosophers. He andCobain appear in a photo on the inside cover of In Utero smoking a joint, giving the two-finger peace sign, and wearing Santa hats. After making numerous denials of using drugswhile simultaneously making “veiled references [to drug use] in numerous articles on theband, Cobain admitted using heroin... After dabbling with the drug for several years, he saidhe developed a serious habit during the chaotic days of Nevermind’s success... but his positionon drugs is clear. He’s nonjudgemental, but says he learned the hard way that they’re stupid.‘I tried to deny it for so long simply because I didn’t want to influence anyone. There wasjust no point in bleeding my heart in front of the world, it’s really no one’s business”(DeRogatis 1993: 33). Not only is it no one’s business it is also impossible to glean what hisposition on drugs is. When considering the statement with the future events of his andCourtney’s repetitive series’ of drug use denial and acknowledgement, detox and relapse, andreprimanding retorts against a prying media plus his last month of drug induced coma,attempted suicide, detox, relapse, and suicide creates nothing but an inconclusive reality. Aswith other expressions of the cultural narrative, in the mass of contradictions there is the totalremoval of black and white opinions or statements about what is considered wrong or right.Drug use is hidden and it is open, it is good and it is bad, it is stupid and it is reasonable.There is a disinterest with the mainstream views on drugs; they try to hide it and display it,they deny using it and do not deny it, they say they have stopped and they continue. Whatthis considerable stupor then creates is the necessity for the individual ‘reader’ to accept thecontradictions of others narratives and decide for themselves wether or not drugs, or any other148thing, is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, that is, if something is for them or not. Individual members of theculture only create the texts which others can read as they will and refuse to be responsiblefor other’s choices and decisions, as they feel they have no right in saying how things shouldbe understood.(c) The Assault on NostalgiaNostalgia for the past has often been a way for various cultures and societies tomaintain or show a desire to maintain values and to express a preference for the ‘good olddays’. In North American mainstream culture the 1950-60 high school years, the 1960-70college years, and the 1980 adult/parent years have been displayed in golden aura with aseemingly endless parade of films, television shows, and classic rock radio stations thatpromote these ‘wonder years’ as the best years. I do not think that it is with any coincidencethat these periods are the same periods which the baby boomers dominated. In thisdomination a form of cultural metanarrative has grown and secured itself a status which tendsto dictate a preference for certain stylistic expressions, meanings, and understandings. For anew generation of youth who share the same experiences only through the media, then, therecan be a feeling of discontent and resentment towards the stifling effect this overshadowingputs on the creation of new, more meaningful youth cultures, Punks took direct offenceagainst this and with a profusion of derisive expressions targeting such things as high schoolsport hero worship, hippy culture, and yuppie 80’s greed made their feelings known in noindirect terms. The Grunge assault on nostalgia again takes its cue from Punk but the culturaltraits of vagueness and implicity in its expressions makes it possible to avoid making obviousand ‘embarrassing’ statements.149Indication that a dominant expressions of nostalgia are being assailed can be found ina variety of textual forms that have been connected to the Grunge culture. In listening toPop 200 for example, an early compilation of bands on the Sub Pop record label, it isapparent that the sound of early rock and roll music influences the culture’s musical style.However, Grunge bands take this style and ravage it by distorting the traditional elements.When listening to such bands as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, and Mudhoneythe music often sounds poppy, has reflections of memorable rhythms, incorporates commonrock chord changes, and projects simple sounding vocals stylings but over it all a real gut andmind wrenching feeling is placed; rhythm can become thunderous and spastic, harmony andmelody quickly fall apart, vocalization includes screaming and caterwauling, and the musicalnotes and chords are bent and tormented to create a dischordance. Grunge musicians are thenew angelic children of rock but they are troubled and cannot be sweet like their predecessorsso the music reflects this. The musical forms that are held dear to the first kids of rock,wrested from the traditional expressions and meanings, become incomprehensible andunapproachable for the kids of brought up on modem youth culture.Other assaults on the nostalgia of early rock can be seen in the new relation betweenaudience and performer. The phenomenon of rock star worship and glorification by audienceswhich arose from the rock cultures of previous generations is an issue of contempt amongstthe Punk and Grunge cultures. As the band members come from within the culture itself,they are only seen as expressing feelings and emotions that are held by most if not allmembers of the culture. Remember the punk ethic: no band is special, no player royalty.While mainstream rock groups tend to erect a protective and ‘bouncer’ formed barrier between150themselves and their fans, it is common to see Grunge band members anonymously andmodestly mingling with the crowd before, after, and during a performance. Textual examplesof this are seen in Pearl Jam’s video for ‘Alive’, in which singer Eddie Vedder intimately‘body surfs’ on the crowd, and Nirvana’s video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. At the start ofthe Nirvana video the three members of the band, singing about youth cultural conformity,and the anarchist cheerleaders are performing for a school gym full of kids who are,traditionally, sitting quietly watching the band from the bleachers. After a few verses andchoruses railing against conformity the audience eventually ends up slam dancing andinteracting with the band, destroying the equipment, destroying the nostalgic image of the peprally, and destroying the barrier that separates artist from audience. It is only with thepopularization of Grunge and the archaic demand by the mainstream media machine to create,promote, and worship pop stars that the separation between performer and audience occurs.Kurt Cobain mentions the dismay he felt in the growing separation between himself and hisaudience as he became popular in his suicide note left to his wife and fans.At first glance there does not seem to be much difference between fashion of the 60’shippy/70’s psychedelic and Grunge but with a couple of subtle differences contemporary youthattire and decoration can be seen as a designed manipulation and abrasion of the previousgeneration’s style. Long hair and second-hand and fashionless clothing (as opposed to thenew, expensive, and chic clothing of mainstream culture) still exist as a stylistic base inGrunge but the characteristics are blended with elements of aggression, roughness, toughness,despondency, and fearlessness which appear to mock the whimsical, airy, and cheerful senseof the predecessor’s fashion style. While earlier fashions reflected the generations aspirations,151contemporary fashions reflect the members lives.T-shirts, for example, a mainstay in the wardrobe now tend to come in black or otherdark and earthy colours with cynical statements and graphic images printed on them, ratherthan the bright and multi-coloured tie-dyed ones with lighthearted words and symbols ofhope, ‘Love’, and ‘Peace’. Over these shirts can be worn heavy leather jackets and/or plaidlumber jackets. Feet are no longer bare or shod with sandles but protected by court shoessuitable for skateboarding or threateningly heavy soled work or hiking boots that canwithstand the abuse of dancing in the mosh pit. New, however, to the texts of youth culturesand quite possibly serving as an indication of a lack of concern for the future and/ormainstream social norms, because the results are almost impossible to shed or escape, is theact or art of body piercing and tattooing (stylistic elements which I encompassed in my ownidentity while researching this paper). In what can be considered a mild form of sadomasochism or self-mutilation by contemporary youth, extensive self-decoration or using thebody as a piece of art has become extensive in contemporary youth culture. This culturalstyle, which partly resembles that of the outlaw motorcycle gang culture the members ofwhich were antagonistic towards the hippies (see Thompson 1967 for example), is one of themost apparent ways that postmodern cultures can efface the boundaries between art andeveryday life. In the assault on the nostalgic images of youth culture which previousgenerations hold, the clear, safe, and protective boundaries found in modem art between whatis art and what is real become vague and precarious. Postmodern cultures, in thesimultaneous expression and mimickery of the conflicting notions of peacefulness, aggression,levity, gloominess, past, present, and future, display a disbelief in that separation and a desire152for the discovery of new and ‘other’ identities found in the mix or play between life and art.The leisure activity of snowboarding can also be seen as an expression of the Grungeassault on modern nostalgia. In the mid to late 80’s skateboarding, originating in the 60’s,found a resurgence in popularity amongst youth. This popularity began with the punk cultureusing the activity as a cheap form of transportation and as another expression of their urbanguerilla persona. The sidewalk surfing of the Jan and Dean era seized to exist and thebombastic assault on the cement and metal composites of the urban and suburban landscape,fuelled by the music of skate bands like J.F.A. (Jodie Foster’s Army), began. Skateboarding,in the act of expressing and physically exerting ones aggression, creativity, and energy on thecity streets, became a form of semi-conscious terrorism by kids on adults. It was cool, ofcourse, and eventually skateboards found their way back into mall department stores.Snowboarding is winter time derivative of this popular urban ‘sport’. Based on many of thesame principles and ethics, or lack thereof, as skateboarding and Punk, this activity broughtthe terrorism of the urban guerilla youth to the pristine ski hills. The sport of skiing holds onto traditional images of good, clean, and shared family activity, beautiful panoramas,affluence, technological advancement, and smooth, side-to-side downhill movement all withinthe comfort of powdery white snow environment. Yet, with the ever increasing price of lifttickets skiing has declined as an affordable family-oriented activity and become onedominated by the affluent generations. Now showing up on the exclusive ski hills andresorts, however, are the ragged, scraggly, rough, and obnoxious Punk youth in their oversized, fashionless, and functional clothing who hold no recognition for traditional means ofgoing downhill. Anything with a vertical edge (bump, jump, or lip) is fair game and if an153unfortunate balding and fattening yuppie meandering down a slope gets in the way ‘who givesa fuck’? The attitude that this connotes reflects a blatant disregard for certain traditionalmodes and rules of conduct which modern and traditional thinking individuals can’tunderstand. Even though the dark and unnerving presence on the hill of these contemporaryyouth, these legions of boarders, acts to threaten the safety and peace of one of the lastbastions of modem leisure activity the display should not be completely understood ashooliganism and wild abandon but a reflection of the disbelief in social rules of etiquette anddeportment.The last example of the assault on nostalgia is seen in the resistance by contemporaryyouth to the attempts by others to place them in categories, models, molds, or groups. Tryingto fit new styles into old models or retrospective conceptions which have previouslydetermined meanings, so that these new things can more easily be understood, can be seen asa form of nostalgia. The mainstream music industry is guilty of this as it is always trying tocreate new versions of old ideas and styles rather than trying to create new ones. There havebeen countless renditions of industry formed Elvis’, Jimi Hendrixs’, Jim Morrisons, Beatles’,and Led Zeppelins that heavily borrow from the musical styles of the originals while trying todeny the unimaginative theft. So, when new acts or styles occur without corporate proddingit seems that it becomes necessary for the mainstream media to describe and label them withfamiliar descriptions and definitions in order to both understand and pigeon-hole them. Whileit is obvious, as I have described earlier, that Grunge bands do borrow from a variety of rockstyles, the purpose behind their sound is not to rip-off the styles for monetary gain but usethem because they a) enjoy them and b) can mock them. However, in the fusion of styles154and the discordant treatment given them the members have made a style of music all theirown that is not like the previous ones. Also, their lives are not thought of being like anyother generation of people before them. Consequently, members of the culture are angeredwhen mainstream media try to label them or parallel or compare them to other people;predecessors or contemporaries. As seen in many interviews with Nirvana, Mudhoney, TAD,and Hole, comments, suggestions, or questions about the terms ‘Grunge’ or ‘Seattle Scene’often result in snide or rude comments. There is such a diversity within the culture thatattempts to lump them together under one term are seen as ignorant because these are at bestoutlining commonalities. Similarly, the popular media have often tried to parallel Kurt Cobainand Courtney Love’s relationship and lifestyle to other rock couples’ such as John Lennon andYoko Ono’s or Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon’s. Kurt’s response, reflecting the typicaldisbelief in the nostalgia and worship of artists and the practice of labelling which restrictsreal understanding, was that he and Courtney were nothing like the other couples and asked“why can’t there be a Kurt and Courtney model?” (DeRogatis 1994: 33).Grunge as PostmodernThe discourse of this contemporary youth culture, found in many of its texts andimages, seems to reflect a postmodern disbelief in the metanarratives that modern society hascreated and a concern for an ‘othemess’ in people that modem society in the promotion of itsmetanarratives tends to disregard or denigrate. In expressing this discourse the culture finds itnecessary to efface or erode those boundaries which protect and uphold the dominantmetanarratives of mainstream society apart from those of marginal society by threatening theircultural and psychological ‘safety’. Consequently, the images tend to be ones projecting a155terror and brutality of and within members and society’s lives and cultures, the variousconflicting states of the body and mind (clean, dirty, energetic, decaying, beautiful, ugly),sexuality and gender, and other traits mainstream cultures seems to fear in others andthemselves. “Kurt Cobain pushed the brutality agenda from the margins to the mainstream,disseminating it through mass culture like rapid fire” (Gaines 1994: 60), and created adiscourse that exposed the discrepancies and misfortunes of contemporary life. In expressingone aspect of a postmodem discourse, the culture acts to “expose and bring to the centre ofsafe society the margins of the social. These violent margins (dope fiends, sexual perverts),are now placed... next door to middle- and lower-class Americans who are attempting to livesafe, respectable lives. These late postmodern [youth cultures] locate violence and thesimulacrum, not just in Disneyland, MTV or in television commercials. They locate thesephenomenon within the everyday and give to the simulacrum a violent turn that it never hadbefore” (Denzin 1988: 463).5.1(bii Interpretini the Grunge Culture/Experience as an Authentic TextConsidering some of the discourse and expressions that I have detailed above, there isno doubt that the critics of contemporary youth culture mentioned in Chapter 3 woulddescribe the Grunge culture as one based on self-relativism and characterized as narcissistic,egocentric, hedonistic, and self-indulgent. There definitely is an atmosphere of individualismand deciding for oneself what is right and wrong or suitable. Artistic works, live shows,leisure activities, and expressed opinions all contain elements of seif-centredness that could beconsidered as representative of the modern malaises of atomic individualism, ‘instrumentalreason’, and socio-political apathy. The problem with these portrayals is that they have been156conceived by individuals who are probably not in the possession of or do not understand themeaning of the postmodern mood, ethos, or (sub)conscious. What should be recognized isthat, as I have outlined from Taylor above, some of these contemporary postmodern culturescan be understood as reflecting a new moral ideal known as authenticity. In recollection, thisideal is actually a blend of 1) self-controlled and self-conscious individualism and 2) a self-determined moral motivation based on the liberalism of self-determining freedom and itssocial recognition. These cultures of individualism are also socially significant cultures whicha) recognize or share some social horizons with dominant/mainstream culture and b) have anopposition to, and criticism of, the tendency to individualistic deviancy as found in self-centred, disengaged, and instrumental rationality.The way that this moral ideal is realized is not found in any objective manner such asdocumented regulation, legislation, and jurisprudence or organizational and religious ordering.Authenticity involves creation, construction, discovery, originality, and even opposition totraditional social rules and morality, yet self-defines itself dialogically by allowing for adegree of openness to wider ‘horizons of significance’. Members realize and create a self-determined freedom by deciding for themselves what concerns them rather than havingoutside forces determine for them what should concern them without impinging on other’sfreedom do so likewise. By being ‘true to oneself and not having to imitate others, they finda point to their life, their own ‘model’ to live by within themseif. In this ‘recovering of anauthentic moral contact’ with themselves, contemporary youth cultures find and recognize a‘source of joy and contentment’.But all these ‘recoverings’ are implicit, unarticulated, and without method. They are157not recognized and agreed upon by members in discussion or conference. Without theprocess of spoken language and since there is the indication that “there is a close analogy,even a connection, between self-discovery and artistic creation” (Taylor 1991: 61), visions andexpressions of the moral ideal of authenticity are found in the discourses in the texts of thecultures. Therefore, in trying to understand wether or not a culture is either expressive of themoral ideal of authenticity or just self-indulgent and socially insignificant the cultural textsare examined. What is looked for are indications of the general features and conditions whichwould allow for and lead to a realization or fulfilment of this ideal human existence. Welook for expressive demonstrations within the textual discourse as to what this conditionwould be like. Based on Taylor’s descriptions of authenticity some of the discourses realizedin the work should depict the worth of difference, diversity, choice, nature (ecological), andother human beings. These are related to notions of the universal right and capacity forpeople to be themselves while safeguarding everyone’s equal chance of this fulfilment, thedignity of human beings as seen in the equal status of genders, cultures, and sexualpreferences, the equal recognition of different identities (as opposed to hierarchical honour) inboth the universal and intimate spheres, and principles of fairness.To try to understand the Grunge culture in view of this perspective of authenticity it isnot really necessary to provide specific examples and details from the texts as I did in theprevious section. By examining the postmodern discourses and ideas that the culture seems torelate to and advance (a disbelief in metanarratives and a concern with otherness) through theuse of three specific styles of expression (parody and pastiche of other cultures, presentationof the unpresentable, and an assault on nostalgia) from an understanding of authenticity we158can still determine wether or not socially significant values are present in the culture. In thisprocess that integrates of the perspectives of postmodernism and authenticity, by determiningif postmodem cultures fulfil the requirements of the moral ideal of authenticity, I will try tofind support for my proposition that authenticity is a moral ideal not just of modem cultures,as Taylor suggests, but postmodem ones too.Authenticity and the Disbelief in MetanarrativesI feel I have established that, as one of their distinguishing features, postmodemcultures and Grunge in particular express an incredulity towards metanarratives; contemporarycultural works seem to express the belief that dominant social narratives, traditions, moralitiesand claims to truth do not necessarily reflect or have meaning for all experiences andunderstandings. Also, because explanation of a text objectifies and dictates meaning, therebycreating an alternate metanarrative, the postmodem artist has no desire to provide one, so theideas behind these expressions remain at the artistic level and interpretation is left up toindividual. Taylor believes that popular postmodem cultures are not authentic because theytend to emphasize the creative and oppositional component of authenticity over the opennessto horizons of significance component and, anthrocentrically, slide into the pit of subjectivityand insignificance (ibid: 66-69). This may be true of some contemporary cultures but not, Ibelieve, of Grunge. Authenticity is, I feel, expressed in the discourse of disbelief by the lackof an attempt to produce and formulate static meanings and positions in its original andcreative works. While the continual process of unconnected and eclectic cultural movementand change could be interpreted by some as reflective of a whimsical or facile relativism thedynamism of change in fact allows for an authentic self-determining freedom on a grand159scale.By being apolitical, or abstaining from an outright expression and imposition of onesown belief or thoughts, the artist not only prevents himself from taking an ‘embarrassing’ andimmovable position but allows for others, using the text as a catalyst, to be free to create,construct, discover, hold, and follow their own beliefs, interpretations, meanings, andunderstandings be they similar or different. The same can be said about the decision to notprovide lyrics with songs, the lack of desire to volunteer meanings for songs or artwork at therequest of interviewers, the constant changing of appearance, and the use of drugs and guns.The piece or act, as a text in its own right, has meaning (which may change) for thewriter/artist/individual and can also have a different meaning for other people. By notimposing a definitive meaning on a text, or a definitive text for that matter, the elements ofdifference and diversity in choice, identity, and experience are allowed to operate, thereby,giving each ‘reader’ an equal opportunity to participate to their own capacity and the self-determining freedom to locate their own meaning in and create their own text by bringingwhatever they consider significant to it. This style, which allows every reader equal chanceof fulfilling their interpretive and creative potential, simultaneously recognizes multiple socialhorizons of significance (such as freedom and equality) and becomes self-defined in dialoguewith these horizons. Consequently, both requirements of the moral ideal of authenticity arefulfilled within the discourse of disbelief in metanarratives.Authenticity and the Concern for OthernessThe frequent concern for otherness in the Grunge culture is a discourse expressing thesecond component of authenticity, supposedly void in postmodern cultures, in that it displays160an incredible worth for and belief in the dignity of human beings as seen in the support forthe equal status of different genders, races, ethnicities, sexual preferences, and lifestyles.Aside from the fact that the self-determination and individualism found through creation anddiscovery are central to these expressions, the concern with and respect for otherness is arecognition of and openness to horizons of significance. These horizons of concern andrespect may or may not necessarily be significant ones for mainstream society as a whole butthey are definitely significant for the ‘other’ person or persons that the creative individual andculture considers when defining themselves in relation to or in dialogue with.The concern for otherness found in the creative exploration of gender differences playsa prominent role in the expressions of members of the Grunge culture. The statements andimages which go against male macho posturing and play down the elements of a machismotypically attached to being male that seem to be entrenched in rock n roll are expressions ofan understanding that youth cultures, and cultures in general, are not and should not be thestrict domain of male voices and attitudes. The dressing up by males in a typically femalefashion, the display of emotions in traditionally female ways by males, and males showing agenuine concern for the caring, nurturing, and condition of children are one set of instancesdeveloping this discourse. This discourse can be read as an indication that being feminine,that is, experiencing, being in touch with, and portraying that part of humanity which hashistorically been ascribed to only half the population, has an importance as a significanthorizon which is often socially placed outside the male range of horizons in fully definingoneself. Similarly, the flipside of these expressions is seen in the case of female memberswho find themselves open to express and define themselves within a rock ‘n’ roll oriented161culture. While images and expressions of and by females in other youth cultures tend toreflect or maintain images of femininity commonly found in mainstream society, in theGrunge culture, like punk before it, females express themselves in masculine ways withoutreproach or criticism. Loud and conspicuous displays of aggressiveness, assertiveness, rage,torment, resistance, and other traditionally male traits and forms by females about their ownsituations and conditions allows them the freedom for self-definition and self-discovery. Therecognition, experience, and acceptance of both socially significant horizons which define ofbeing male or masculine and female or feminine allows both genders to further create,develop, and define themselves in ways previously denied due to social disdain/prejudice. Asa result, male and female positions and lifestyles become blurred yet evolved due to thecomplimentary and reciprocal recognition of the equal worth and significance of the others’traits and capabilities.These same images that demonstrate a belief in the worth of and concern for thedifferences and diversity in gender experiences and qualities also create an opportunity for adiscussion of another area of concern for othemess. Because some of the images deal withthe often confusing activity of cross-gender experimentation, mainstream society, oftenregarded as being homophobic, can mistakenly understand and react to these as indicating theencouragement of or participation in homosexual activity or tendencies. Both males whodress in clothing designated for females and females who project stereotypicaly malepersonality traits can experience negative social reaction (homophobia, misogyny) and havetheir sexuality questioned. The original intentions of the culture’s creative members may notnecessarily be directed towards the concerns of homosexuality but in dialogue with the larger162society the topic becomes activated. The inflammatory remarks made in response to socialharassment about homosexuality are not essentially a promotion of a certain way of life oridentity just because of its difference or in defiance to mainstream life and morality but assupport for others to live their life as they feel fit. That is, the value of the ‘other’ is notrecognized in its being ‘different’ but in its being part of an identity that is genuine and freelychosen for those people. The culture can be seen as expressing a concern for homosexualityor the mistreatment of homosexuals within mainstream society but the textual images canmore generally be understood as another form of support for other human beings who aredifferent from mainstream society’s ideas of normal, right, and proper and the right to bethemselves. It can also be seen as support for people who find themselves constantly indanger of social rebuke and derision for being themselves and different; an expression of thesupport for the free and equal social recognition of an individuals’ right to self-fulfilment.This expression of freedom and equality can also be seen as a self-serving result of thedialogue that the outwardly creative and different youth culture such as Punk and Grunge haswith mainstream. Members of these cultures experience social torment (such as getting beatup in a parking lot by football players) because of their physical differences and can relate tothe similar treatment that others who also don’t fit the profile of other social norms receive.Expressions of Authenticity in the Postmodern CultureThe three styles of narrative expression that contemporary postmodern cultures use toefface the boundaries and threaten the safety of mainstream society can be seen as possessingboth of the required elements of authenticity that make it both self-realizing while cognizantof social horizons. By parodying items of everyday life, presenting the unpresentable, and163assaulting cultural nostalgia the contemporary youth cultures are able to advance elements ofself-discovery while simultaneously implying an affirmation of certain significant humanhistorical and social backgrounds. At first glance, because of the sarcastic and cynicaliconoclasm associated with Grunge, the art works expressive of these elements seem toinvolve only the self-centred concerns of creation, discovery, and opposition to many of therules and morals of society. But, in their seemingly random, yet creative manipulation offragmented and unconnected images and texts there is an underlying implicit and unarticulatedethos of regard for and recognition of certain social notions that the subculture shares with themainstream culture.Parodying small town culture, 60’s culture, yuppie culture, and their own culture (as itbecomes popular and commodified) can appear as a discourse of vindictive, self-destructive,and anti-social discoursive expression by the Grunge culture but by understanding theelements of authenticity present in the images meaning can be realized. The power of parodycomes from its roots in creative humour and the ability to make a personal, social, or politicalcomment without having to be direct, obtuse, or obvious about it. It makes a covert andsometimes cryptic portrayal which the reader must make an interpretation of and allows theartist to make a statement without taking an ‘embarrassing’ position. The hyper-real images ofredneck life in small-town America coursing through the varied texts of Grungesimultaneously provide competing notions of community, oppression, home/roots, alienation,comfort, violence, peace/calm, nature, ignorance, earthiness, vulgarity, and genuineness. Theconstruction and mixing of these terrifying and comforting images of rural life in an urban164setting, or on the urban canvas, allows for the discoveiy and development of an authenticidentity. They pose an opposition and freedom to both the violent herd mentality of the ruralsetting and the disengaged/teflon/preying persona required of the urban individual andidentity. However, on the flipside is the defining, or redefining, of a significant model ofsocial interaction that promotes the worth of good nurturing and intimate relationships withfriends, family, and nature and the notion of fairness “which demands equal chances foreveryone to develop their own identity” (Taylor 1991: 50).These same ideas or notions are reflected in the expressions parodying the 60’s/yuppiecultures and the popularization of Grunge. I do not think the Grunge culture in generalbelieves that the hippy culture was completely void of any redeeming features. The sense ofthe worth of cultural community and the style of free and liberated artistic and identityexploration associated with the preceding culture is similar to that notion held by thecontemporary youth cultures. However, the irresponsible, disengaged, and atomistic elementof ‘dropping out’ via the celebration of drug use and the appearance that a large proportion ofthe 60’s cultural population went on to hypocritically renege on their social ideals makes thema target of contemporary culture’s satirical bite. Dropping out of mainstream society is no bigdeal to individuals who feel that they were never part of it but dropping out or withdrawingfrom the responsibility to the subculture itself, which can occur through an overindulgence indrug use (Kurt Cobain for example), is considered selfish, wasteful, and stupid. Also,relieving oneself of the youthful ideals that fuelled ones identity and culture and replacingthem with ones that one was formerly against is also considered culturally irresponsible. TheRolling Stone cover with Nirvana, as described above, is a pointed and critical remark on this165departure of the magazines editors/owners from being anti-establishment to being thecorporate establishment. The appearance by a Punk band on the cover of a previousgeneration’s corrupt cultural edifice is similarly seen as a sell-out but the quickly scrawledmessage “Corporate magazines still suck” on Cobain’s t-shirt is an creatively authenticmessage in that the band expresses an opposition to the magazine and reassures theirsubcultural members that in doing so they still have the freedom and fortitude to voice theirbeliefs even though they have been co-opted into popular culture.Even though the message is authentic the elements of parody and pastiche in the R.S.cover still express seif-parodic notions by the culture ridiculing the inauthenticity of their ownpopular images created by the mainstream media. As the bands find themselves and theirculture becoming commodities they have found that the spirit and intimacy of theircommunity has become frail and disintegrated. When bands move to Seattle just to get arecord contract based on an assimilation of the ‘Seattle Sound’ and scene location music isn’tmade just for the sake of making music anymore. The Grunge identity, as with any culturalidentity, becomes farcical, transparent, and embarrassing as it becomes a commodity. Peoplecan buy into the ‘Grunge’ image, which has become stereotyped, without also taking on thephilosophies that originally fuelled the culture. In a self-parody the members take or recreateimages of themselves which are no longer themselves (uni-dimensional, static, cardboard cutout, comic book images of themselves which the popular media have decided on) and ‘pose’or play with them to show the juxtaposition of the authentic and the popular. The latter, inbeing commodified, appears to lack complete truth or reality and real meaning. By makingthemselves and their culture look idiotic or repellent, in displaying an opposition to the166tendency to create popular cultural metanarratives, there is the hope that mainstream culturewill lose interest in their culture and allow for the retrieval of an element of originality, socialintimacy, and authenticity.The presentation of the unpresentable, as a common discourse in the contemporaryyouth cultures, is often thought of as only a childish display of opposition to the rules andmorality of society. The images thrown about by youth which tend to shock and upset oldermainstream audiences are considered as part of a rebellious ‘phase’ which they will grow outof when they mature and find their place in society. The images which, as I have indicatedabove, are partially a result of an attempt to reveal some of the other darker forms of lifeexperiences, the not so clean and respectable ones, and are also an element of the expressionof authenticity and a regaining of a social attachment that has often been lost in modemsociety. The music, fashion, on-stage antics and presentation, and personal activities allexpress some aspects and ideas about creativity and individuality, opposition to somestandards of society, and the retrieval of other social values.The creative-discovery aspect of these texts is apparent. Dark, dirty, and sometimesterrif’ing elements pervade a lot of the cultural presentations which can be considered part ofthe outwardly generated identity that the individual Grunge-related artist is seen to reflect. Inthe process of this playful self-discovery where the darker, troubled parts of the individualityfuel the desire to produce texts that soothe the artist’s internal demons there are also ideasabout preferred forms of society that give cause for the expression of the ‘unpresentable’creative works. The quality of the mistake-ridden, experimental, gritty, live, and loud sound167of the culture’s music and it’s eclectic borrowing of styles from past rock cultures allows for avariety of alternatives in self-determined cultural creation. It is in this diversity that notionsof fairness and equal opportunity for everyone to form and have ones identity sociallyrecognized occur. By not posing any demands of mastery or professionalism on the musicmade (ie. that it be radio-friendly to sensitive ears or sell lots of units), there is an emphasison a form of social equality, a freedom from the modern demands of technology and money,and a freedom for the artist to make music, cheaply, and have it heard and appreciated byothers. This reciprocal need for others in the culture to find enjoyment in one’s creationshelps to form a cohesive and intimate community.When considering these and other forms of unpresentable presentations (the uncleanand untidy anti-fashions, on-stage destruction and aggression by males and females, genderrole confusion and experimentation, and conspicuous firearm, drug and alcohol use) inconjunction with a non-judgemental attitude there is an implicit recognition of the freedom forindividual creativity and opposition to rules and norms of decency and tradition withoutrebuke. However, there is a concurrent implication that in this process of creativity the artistmust be aware of and recognize the same freedoms for others at the same time. There is nocondemnation of lifestyle, only condemnation of people who do not allow people to realizethemselves as they see fit.By bringing another culture’s texts and styles from the past and into the present, asseen in the assault on the nostalgia, contemporary cultures which arrange these texts in acreative and sometimes fragmentary composition are able to locate or create a terror in those168signs. In the constructive destruction which can through the appropriation of borrowed formspose various forms of opposition to dominant rules and moralities there is, however, aninsinuated suggestion of a recognition in or worth of some significant social background orsocial attachment; there is both a terror and a safety located in nostalgia for the past. Theexpressions of this assault on social standards, similar to the ones in the presentation of theunpresentable, are seen in the postmodem cultures’ intent to shatter the ‘comfortable illusionsof the adult middle-class life’ (Denzin 1988: 462-463) by bringing a heightened sense of thepast into the present.As Grunge is a rock culture itself, the nostalgia for other past rock cultures is often thetarget of the assault. Showing a belief in the essences of innocence, youthfulness, andrebelliousness which were primary in rock at its inception, the early pop-rock sounds and rockcultural traditions that become ravaged and ruined by the contemporary expressions of teenageangst is a display of disbelief in the structures that traditional rock has become and a renewalof the terror that rock ‘n’ roll was. The sense of amateurism that the creative mangling andmaligning of traditional rock styles creates helps to corrode barriers that have been erectedsince rock became popular, commodified, classic, and ineffective. The authenticity of Grungemusic comes from its lack of respect for and opposition to the conventions andpretentiousness that most mainstream music has in the rock world. The raison d’etre for theGrunge and Punk cultures is an attempt to allow and compel anyone the free and equalopportunity to express themselves through the liberating medium of rock ‘n’ roll. Byremoving such qualifications of professionalism, monetary support, and mass appeal anybodywith a penchant to create or belong to the culture can. Elimination of such barriers as169recording production refinement or quality, performer (rock star/idol) and audience(worshipper) separation, rock as strictly a male domain of expression, elaborate stagepresentation, and stylistic models all allow a personal, creative, and cultural freedom that ismissing from mainstream popular culture. The aggressive and anti-fashion style ofsnowboarding which tends to threaten or destroy the nostalgic images of the ski resort canalso be seen as an expression of this discourse of freedom and equality. The baggy, formlessclothing, ruthless attitude, and the anarchic descension of the ski run on a board are signs ofdestruction that emphasize the notion of the freedom of the individual from have to fit into orrecognize certain models or social standards. While all boarders may not recognize this, indestroying ideas of social etiquette there is a regaining of ideas about individual and socialfreedom and equality.Grunge as AuthenticTo say that the contemporary or postmodern individual and culture is self-centred to apoint of atomistic, self-indulgent, narcissistic egoism is to entirely miss the discourse ofauthenticity that some of these cultures and their members have created for themselves. Inbeing postmodern, Grunge offered a textual discourse which expressed a disbelief in and aneffacement of metanarratives and a concern for ‘otherness’ through the use of pastiche andparody, the presentation of the unpresentable, and an assault on nostalgia. The variouscomponents of this discourse can be understood as fulfilling Taylor’s conditions for a cultureto be an authentic one because not only do they thoroughly embrace the practice of creativity,discovery, and construction as primary in their texts but they also, when generalized, show aconcern or proposal for certain social horizons of significance such as the universal170recognition of fairness, freedom, plurality, and equality for all people. The elements of selfdiscovery and self-definition of personal and social identity and ideals through creativity thatresult from the incredulity with metanarratives and the incumbent concern with othernessmore or less commands that a postmodern culture also be an authentic one.171CHAPTER 6 WHAT HAVE I DONE?: DAZED AND CONFUSED, TOO“Though thousands of youth styles walk the street today in a highly individualisticextravaganza, they are frequently read, or interpreted, as lacking in any radicalpolitical potential. While once there was perceived to be a subversive, rebellious edgeto such youth styles, since the early 1980’s the dominant reading has been reversed”(Redhead 1990, 32)“Hate, hate your enemiesSave, save your friendsFind, find your placeSpeak, speak the truth”from the song ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’ by Nirvana (1993)Throughout this paper I have tried to suggest new theoretical and methodologicalmeans of understanding contemporary youth cultures. The purpose behind this was that I feltsome of these cultures were being cast out of hand by critics and members of senior agecohorts (read: adults) simply because they could not see meaning or social significance inthem. While the critics tend to believe that many of today’s youth are generally delinquentand, like Redhead mentions in the quote above, lack any sort of moral ideals or values, Isuggested that because these critics are not properly equipped with a more suitable set ofperspectives or frameworks of understanding they cannot adequately interpret the experiencesand meanings of these cultures. I believe that some contemporary youth cultures can and dohave social significance. Though not necessarily compelled to, as a member of one of theseyouth cultures I felt that I could provide important and unique insight into the expression andmeaning of the moral values which I knew existed and the foundations of what I believed wasa more appropriate perspective with which to try and understand contemporary youth andlocate some matter of social significance or moral values in their cultures. The body of thiswork acts to try to provide this insight and promote these foundations.172Day to day, I am not really concerned wether or not older generations properlyunderstand the younger ones (though I have spent many the dinner time arguing withmembers of more senior generations the benefits and appeal of punk and grunge) or ifcontemporary youth lack any moral values. However, when both my cultural and academicidentities collide I find it useful to reflect on such social conditions and concerns and use myprivileged scholarly and cultural position to create and provide something positive andvaluable for both my friends, my peers, my elders, and myself. Hence, the importance ofusing ‘Grunge’ as an example of a contemporary youth culture that holds moral ideals isbecause it is the culture of which I feel a part (long before it became popular), that itcurrently holds a high degree of popularity amongst a growing number of the youthpopulation as seen in record sales and commercial media rip-offs, and that it provides a freshlocus for sociological study.What is most exciting is that the essence of Grunge is informed by the attitude andethic of punk, a culture which is subversive towards and critical of mainstream society. Punkis abrasive and aggressive, values honesty and integrity, and believes in self-reliance,community, equality and freedom. The artistic and expressive texts and discourses found inthe lyrics, sounds, graphic images and presentations of this reflective culture appear to bothseparate itself from and criticize mainstream society, as well as develop a community basedon an independent system of cultural production, distribution, and organization. That thisattitude is now finding a way to appeal to mainstream youth poses significant questions andproblems for society-at-large. What can it mean? What will happen? Is society, as weknow, doomed? How will a generation of “fuckin’ lazy” Slackers keep society rolling on its173safe path?What should be realized, however, is that these cultures cannot be strictly described asdeviant and delinquent or considered a result of dominant/subordinate cultural relations.These cultures actually provide a criticism of society, albeit in a contemporary form, hiddenbehind a cryptic obscurity, an implicitness based on insecurity and an inarticulate yet intuitiveform of expression. Traditional objective and quantifiable methods cannot be expected to beoperational in these conditions because they are not properly equipped to handle newexpressions and meanings. Consequently, new theories and methods have to be uncovered.Ones that relate more closely, in the same language, to what is being said by today’s youth.It is necessary to introduce or suggest new methods if we are going to properly retrieve andread elements of the culture that its members would consider as close to being significant andtrue. Not only should this method provide new insight into the culture it should also be ableto recognize and validate the relationship (in my case, close relationship) with and effect thatthe researcher has on the subject culture; it should realize that all social study is affected bythe researcher’s personal situations and conditions and that purely objective and disconnectedwork is almost impossible. Accordingly, I established that the philosophy of hermeneutics,the theory and practice of interpretation, is best suited for a sociological investigation with thepurpose of understanding cultural texts that are of a literary, phenomenological, historical, andphilosophical nature as it recognizes the ‘effective history’, the dialogic relationship, betweenthe researcher and their subject and the dynamic interpretive capabilities of the researcher.Understanding conceptions of postmodernism, such as the disbelief in metanarratives,allows the reader to realize that today’s youth will not be explicitly proclaiming their values174and ideas about society in a political forum. They will use chaotic aesthetic renderings andexpressions achieved through the qualities of creative artistry to project their concerns andbeliefs. It is up to everyone else to read them and form their own meanings. This processresults in the simultaneous expression of self-fulfilment and individual creation in non-determinate ways yet, at the same time, there are implicit but definite indications of sociallylocated moral ideals that value certain significant social ideas such as the recognition offairness, freedom, plurality, and equality for all people. 1980’s youth, as a conscious agecohort, did not seem to have a culture that widely held or represented them together as acommunity or expressed notions of opposition to socially dominant culture as others had inthe past. But, in the 90’s, Grunge, as a representative of youth cultures, seems to have thisquality of possessing moral values. These values, which are reflective of the ideal ofauthenticity, indicate the significance of these contemporary youth cultures within the socialsphere.I’ll be the first to admit that there is a lot more to Grunge and other contemporarycultures than I have presented here (I would never want or be able to completely reveal theessence of what it is to belong to these cultures to an ‘outsider’). I would also not want tosuggest that Grunge was the ultimate youth culture (as that would go against the mood orphilosophy of the culture) only that through being a member, as a pseudo-academic, I havebeen able to be authentic in my own way; in this study I have self-fulfilled myselfacademically, have been (to a degree) academically creative and I also recognized significantsocial horizons that may benefit from the discussion of contemporary social values withincontemporary youth culture. I cannot speak for other members of the culture who may view175the meaning of the culture completely different from me, but I feel that this thesis has beenable to construct and define one appropriate ‘strategy’ to locate, interpret and understand themeaning of contemporary youth cultural expression such that they can be understood as beingreflective of values and/or moral ideals that are socially significant or positive.Therefore, the Grunge culture and other contemporary youth cultures that can beconsidered as being postmodern and authentic will and do have conceptions of moral valuesand ideals that are socially significant. But, because they are imbedded in the forms ofcreative cultural text, text that is influenced by a postmodem mood which refrains fromobjective and concrete delineation of meaning, they are often unarticulated and implied which,thereby, requires the individual reader to pose their own interpretations in order to find theirmeaning and understand them while remaining open to new ideas. How these discourses andcultures will be socially significant is only determined by how the individual membersthemselves interpret, understand, and put them into action. This is one of the reasons thatKurt Cobain refused to be so bold or self-righteous in allowing himself to be labelled as thevoice of a generation.“What else should I write? I don’t have the right”from the song ‘All Apologies’ by Nirvana (1993)176BIBLIOGRAPHYAbercrombie, N., S. Lash & B. Longhurst, “Popular Representation: Recasting Realism” pp115-140 in Modernity & Identity, S. Lash and J. 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G., Truth & Method, New York, NY: Continuum, 1975.Gaines, D., “Suicidal Tendencies: Kurt Did Not Die For You” pp 59-61 in Rolling Stone,June 2, 1994.Grana, C., Meaning & Authenticity: Further Essays on the Sociology of Art, New Brunswick,NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1988.Grossman, L., A Social History of Rock Music, New York: David Mckay, 1976.179Hall, S. and T. Jefferson (eds.), Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-WarBritain, New York: Holmes and Meier, 1976.Hammersley, M. & P. Atkinson, Ethnographv: Principles in Practice, New York:Methuen, Inc., 1983.Harmon, J. E., “Meaning in Rock Music: Notes Towards a Theory of Communication”pp 18-32 in Popular Music & Society, 2, 1972.Harvey, D., The Condition of Postmodernitv, Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1980.Hebdige, D., “The Meaning of Mod”, pp 87-96 in Resistance Through Rituals: YouthSubcultures in Post-War Britain, S. Hall & T. Jefferson (eds.), New York: Holmes &Meier, 1976.Hebdige, D., Subculture: the Meaning of Style, London: Methuen, 1979.Hilburn, R., “Nevermind the Band’s Last Album, In Utero Gets Them Back to Their Roots”pp Cl, C8 in The Vancouver Sun, Thursday Sept. 16, 1993.Hirsch, E. D. Jr., “Validity in Interpretation” pp 342-3 58 in Art and Its Significance: AnAnthology of Aesthetic Theory, S. D. Ross (ed.), Albany: State of New York Press,1984.Horowitz, I. L., “Introduction: Culture of Sociology and Sociology of Culture”, pp xv-xxiii inMeaning & Authenticity: Further Essays on the Sociology of Art, C. Grana (author),New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1989.Jameson, F., “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” in Postmodern Culture, H. Foster (ed.),London: Pluto Press, 1985.Jefferson, T., “Cultural Responses of the Teds” in Resistance Through Rituals: YouthSubcultures in Post-War Britain, S. Hall & T. Jefferson (eds.), New York: Holmes &Meier, 1976.Jencks, C., What is Post-Modernism?, New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1986.Jones, L., Great Expectations: American and the Baby Boom Generation, New York: Coward,McCann, and Geoghegan, 1980.Keliner, D., “Postmodernism as Social Theory: Some Challenges and Problems” pp 141-177in Modernity & Identity, S. Lash and J. Friedman (eds.), Cambridge, Mass.: BlackwellPublishers, 1992.180Laing, D., One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock, Milton Keynes: OpenUniversity Press, 1985.Lamy, P. & J. Levin, “Punk and Middle-Class Values: A Content Analysis” pp 157-170 inYouth & Society, 17, 1985.Lasch, C., The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations,New York: Warner Books, 1979.Laufer, R.S. and V.L. Bengston, “Generations, Ageing, and Social Stratification: On theDevelopment of Generational Units” pp 186-188 in Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 30,No. 3.Levine, H. G. & S. H. 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Tradition and Reason, Oxford: Polity Press, 1987.Weinsheimer, J., Philosophical Hermeneutics and Literary Theory, New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 1991.Weinstein, D., Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology, New York, NY: Lexington Books, 1991.Yankelovich, D., The New Morality: A Profile of American Youth in the 70’s, New York:McGraw-Hill, 1974.183APPENDIX ALIST (DISCOGRAPHY) OF TEXTS USEDILISTENED TO WHILE DOING THISSTUDYCOMPACT DISCS1. Alice in Chains - “Facelift0 (1990)2. Alice in Chains - °Dirt” (1992)3. Jane’s Addiction - “Nothing’s Shocking” (1988)4. Nirvana - “Bleach” (1989)5, Nirvana - “Nevermind” (1991)6. Nirvana - “In Utero” (1993)7. Nirvana - “Incesticide” (1992)8. Compilation - “Sub-Pop 200” (1988)9. Tad - “Salt Lick” (1990)10. Hole - “Live Through This” (1994)11. Beck - “Mellow Gold” (1994)12. Soundgarden - “Screaming Life” (1987)13. Soundgarden - “Loud Love” (1989)14. Soundgarden - “SuperUnknown” (1994)15. Soundgarden - “Badmotorfinger” (1991)15. Smashing Pumpkins - “Siamese Dream” (1993)16. Pearl Jam - “ten” (1991)17. Temple of the Dog - “Temple of the Dog” (1991)18. Skin Yard - “Hallowed Ground” (1989)19. Naked Raygun - “All Rise” (1985)20. Minor Threat - “Complete Discography” (1989)21. Mudnoney - “Superfuzz Bigmuff’ (19822. Green River - “Dry as a Bone” (1986)21. The Cranberries - “Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t we?” (1993)22. The Pixies - “Bossanova” (1990)23. The Pixies - “Surfer Rosa” (1988)24. Youth Brigade - “Sound and Fury” (1983)25. No Means No - “Sex Mad” (1986)26. Minor Threat - “Out of Step” (1983)27. Minor Threat - “Complete Discography” (1989)Among others...PUBLICATIONS:1. REQUEST: THE NEW MUSIC MAGAZINE - November 19922. Rolling Stone - Issue 628, April 16th, 19923. RoIling Stone - Issue 683, June 2, 19944. ALTERNATIVE PRESS: NEW MUSIC NOW - Issue 44, Jan/Feb 19925. ALTERNATIVE PRESS: NEW MUSIC NOW - Issue 61, Aug. 19936. ALTERNATIVE PRESS: NEW MUSIC NOW - Issue 71, June 1994184Appendix A (cont.7. Details - Feb. 19928. Details - Nov. 19939. Closet Rock - Issue 410. Route 666: The Road to NIRVANA, Gina Arnold (Author), 199311. Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, Michael Azerrad (Author), 1993VIDEOMUCH MUSIC (CANADA’S MUSIC STATION): provided various interviews of andvideos by the band Nirvana. Also provided brain candy when I didn’t feel like beingstrapped to the computer.

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